Does theology matter?

For a long time I have thought so, and I still do. But as I’ve gotten deeper into theology, sometimes I find myself wondering what the point of a lot of it is.

I have a rule of thumb I like to apply to myself when doing theology: if I couldn’t answer the question, “Why should I care about what you are talking about?” to the average person (i.e., not an ivory-tower scholar), I probably should be doing something else.

The connection between theology and ethics has helped me retain confidence in the significance of theology, but sometimes the connection isn’t obvious: i.e., what significance is there, exactly, to one’s millennial position? In an extended sense, I guess, the way one looks at the direction of history might have some impact on one’s behaviour, but sometimes I wonder if the difference each position makes is really too distant to have a real significance. The fact that there has been dispute might be an argument against this, I don’t know (people don’t tend to continue debating meaningless topics unless there is some ulterior issues involved, it seems to me).

I’m rambling in this post, but I just wanted to bring up that question, and then mention an idea I had recently that might add to the discussion of this question.

My idea is this: I think one could respond to the criticism that the general content of the theology curriculum is irrelevant to ethics by pointing out the limitations of the critic. That is, the experience of any particular individual or group is limited, and thus judgments of pragmatic significance are limited in finality. And if, in fact, God has revealed something to us, would that not be a significant reason to think that that thing is relevant to our lives? Of course, this won’t persuade an unbeliever who is asking for the significance of theology, but it should persuade sincerely inquiring believers.

There are many other possible arguments to defend the significance of theology (e.g., that people tend to live out what they believe, that ‘we become like what we worship’, that wisdom is a virtue to be sought in itself, and even more specific arguments for specific theological doctrines), but I think this one is particularly helpful because it turns the tables on the questioner.