Three Reasons Teens Need Theology
by Samuel Whitefield
Should teenagers study theology? To answer the question we have to begin with a right understanding of what theology is. Theology is not primarily about the study of doctrines and details. The word theology consists of two key ideas: “theo,” which means God, and “logy,” which means study. It is the study of God—the study of a Person.
When people ask if they should study theology, they usually have in mind reading difficult books and trying to grasp the doctrines and details of Christianity. All of this is important, but it can be like standing before a painting by a master and focusing on one small detail in the painting while never taking in the majesty of the entire work.
Theology is not ultimately something just for professors and brilliant intellectuals. It is for every believer. It does not require great intellect or years of study. It is simply fuel for experiencing the love of God and loving Him in return. Therefore, every believer should study theology—including teenagers.
Encounter God through Study
When we study theology, our goal should be to encounter God because the proper study of theology is the pursuit of a person. We study Him in order to know what He is like, what He wants, and how we can know Him. When we love someone, we naturally study them, and theology is simply an expression of our desire to know the glorious, majestic, infinite, eternal God.
However, what if our desire for God seems weak? If your heart feels dull, then give yourself to the study of God so that His beauty and majesty captivate your heart and mind. The study of God is both the result of love for God and one of the means of growing in love for God. Because God is the most beautiful person that exists, the more clearly we see Him, the more deeply we love Him.
Grow in Love for God through Study
The Bible makes it clear that our relationship with God is not a relationship based on agreement to the right religious creeds or just following the right codes of behavior. It is a relationship that should be passionate. We receive the love of God and respond to that love with our whole heart. Jesus called this the first commandment:
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22:37–38 ESV)
Studying someone that we love is never a burden. It is a natural result of love, and it is deeply enjoyable. We think nothing of investing hours in getting to know someone that we love, and the more that we discover about them, the more pleasure we take in who they are. Growing in knowledge about a person fuels our love for them.
Find Answers through Study
Teenagers are often treated as though their pursuits and thoughts are primarily trivial, but the reality is teenagers feel deep desires, ask deep questions, and deserve deep answers. Tragically, the church has frequently given teenagers shallow answers to the challenges they face when what they really need is to be encouraged in the pursuit of the knowledge of God. They need answers to match their questions.
As a teenager, you have an immense capacity for the knowledge of God. Your desires are not too strong. Your deepest desires are intended to lead you into the lifelong study of a Person. Theology is not just for professors and pastors. It is not just for middle-aged adults. It is for you, and if you enter the study of theology with the goal of knowing a Person, you will discover the most beautiful and majestic Person imaginable. You will discover the One who alone is meant to be the object of your deepest affections, and it is never too early to begin this pursuit.
Don’t waste your teenage years, and don’t be satisfied with small answers to great questions. Don’t be intimidated by big books. You were made for this, so enter into a lifetime of discovery of the infinite, eternal God.
Which stories are you studying to pursue greater love for the Lord?
This summer, your teen(s) can join other young believers from across the nation for fun, worship, and study of the Word during our ATC camps, as they learn about Jesus and His great love for them. Register today!
Samuel Whitefield serves as faculty at IHOPU.