There Is No Substitute for Theology
We being what we are and all things else being what they are, the most important and profitable study any of us can engage in is without question of the study of theology.
That theology probably receives less attention than any other subject tells us nothing about its importance or lack of it. It indicates rather that men are still hiding from the presence of God among the trees of the garden and feel acutely uncomfortable when the matter of their relation to God is brought up. They sense their deep alienation from God and only manage to live at peace with themselves by forgetting that they are not at peace with God.
If there were no God things would be quite otherwise with us. Were there no one to whom we bust finally render up account, at least one big load would be gone from our minds. We would only need to live within the law, not too hard a task in most countries, and there would be nothing to fear. But if God indeed created the earth and placed man upon it in a state of moral probation, then the heavy obligation lies upon us to learn the will of God and do it.
It has always seemed to me completely inconsistent that existentialism should deny the existence of God and then proceed to use the language of theism to persuade men to live right. The French writer, Jean-Paul Sartre, for instance, states frankly that he represents atheistic existentialism. �If God does not exist,� he says, �we find no values or commands to turn to which legitimize our conflict. So in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, or justification before us. We are all alone, with no excuses.� Yet in the next paragraph he state bluntly, �Man is responsible for his passion,� and further on, �A coward is responsible for his cowardice.� And such considerations as these, he says, fill the existentialist with �anguish, forlornness, and despair.�
It seems to me that such reasoning must assume the truth of everything it seeks to deny. If there were no God there could be no such word as �responsible.� No criminal need fear a judge who does not exist; nor would he need to worry about breaking a law that had not been passed. It is the knowledge that the law and the judge do in fact exist that strikes fear to the lawbreaker�s heart. There is someone to whom he is accountable; otherwise the concept of responsibility could have no meaning.
It is precisely because God is, and because man is made in His image and is accountable to Him, that theology is so critically important. Christian revelation alone has the answer to life�s unanswered questions about God and human destiny. To let these authoritative answers lie neglected while we search everywhere else for answers and find none is, it seems to me, nothing less than folly.
No motorist would be excused if he neglected to consult his road map and tried instead to find his way across the country by looking for moss on logs, or by observing the flight of wild bees or watching the movements of the heavenly bodies. If there were no map a man might find his way by the stars; but for a traveler trying to get home the stars would be a poor substitute for a map.
Without a map the Greeks did an admirable piece of navigating; but the Hebrews possessed the map and so had no need of human philosophy. As one not wholly unacquainted with Greek thought, it is my belief that but one of Isaiah�s eloquent chapters or David�s inspired psalms contains more real help for mankind that all the output of the finest minds of Greece during the centuries of her glory.
The present neglect of the inspired Scriptures by civilized man is a shame and a scandal; for those same Scriptures tell him all he wants to know, or should want to know, about God, his own soul and human destiny. It is ironic that men will spend vast amounts both of time and of money in an effort to uncover the secrets of their past when their own future is all that should really matter to them.
No man is responsible for his ancestors; and the only past he must account for is the relatively short one he himself has lived here on earth. To learn how I can escape the guilt of sins committed in my brief yesterdays, how I can live free from sin today and enter at last into the blessed presence of God in a happy tomorrow-that is more important to me than anything that can be discovered by the anthropologist. It appears to me to be a strange perversion of interest to gaze backward at the dust when we are equipped to look upward at the glory.
Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be. Whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and things eternal, l does injury to my soul. Let the cares of life crowd out the Scriptures from my mind and I have suffered loss where I can least afford it. Let me accept anything else instead of the Scriptures and I have been cheated and robbed to my eternal confusion.
The secret of life is theological and the key to heaven as well. We learn with difficulty, forget easily, and suffer many distractions. Therefore we should set our hearts to study theology. We should preach it from our pulpits, sing it in our hymns, teach it to our children and make it the subject of conversation when we meet with Christian friends.