Theology is defined as the study of God or a set of beliefs. Everyone who has ever thought about God has developed a theology. As a pastor, I am exposed to people who have arrived at a detailed theology about all things religious. They have convictions that flow from their understanding of God and what he desires. The most significant question about our beliefs is, “How did we arrive at that conclusion.”
There are two fundamental ways that we develop our theology.
The first way is to read the Bible and draw conclusions over what we learn there. This is difficult because it requires us to be familiar with all the Bible. We need to understand both the Old and New Testaments and how they fit together. It requires study and searching for common themes while harmonizing complicated thoughts. Quite often it requires years and years of research to form solid concepts about multiple topics.
The other way to arrive at your theology is through informational gathering. This requires us to listen to teachers, read books and have spiritual conversations. This is not necessarily an easy journey into learning, but it is different. It leads us to theologians, authors and loud voices who can influence our thinking. Frequently it is affected by my family and personal experiences.
I have encountered both and realized most people are not disciplined enough to develop a robust Biblical theology, so we try to shortcut the process with information gathering. This is not necessarily a bad thing in any way, but there are two critical questions to ask yourself:
Do I believe this to be true because of something I found in the Bible or because of the words of someone else?
If I found something in the Bible that was different from what I currently believe, would I adjust my thinking accordingly?
We must always be on guard against arriving at our religious beliefs and then trying to find ways to support what we already believe. This forces us to read only the parts of the Bible with which we agree. In turn, we listen only to speakers and authors whom we agree. Without noticing it, we create a theology based on our preference nothing more. I believe faith should pull and stretch us into unnatural positions and conclusions based on a supernatural being. When God likes and hates all the same thing that we do, usually we have just made a god in our own image and have not discovered the God of the Bible.