homas Aquinas called theology the “queen of sciences.” But the study of theology—the study of God—was gradually sidelined and now finds no place in the contemporary curriculum. Alexander Pope captured the spirit of our modern age:
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
I have come to disagree with Mr. Pope. Focusing first on “Man” can get you into trouble. When I was in college, it was fashionable to have an identity crisis. Leaving family, rejecting friends, staying in school, or dropping out—any behavior was fair game as long as it contributed to the task of “finding” yourself. Not what it was cracked up to be, looking for yourself led to a descent down the rabbit hole, into a terrifyingly confused “Wonderland” filled with smiling Cheshire cats, Mad Hatters, and insane queens shouting “off with your head!”
Knowing God is what makes sense of life. Missing God leads to disaster. In his classic book Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes:
The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded as it were with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul.1
In contrast to Mr. Pope, the famous first question of the Westminster Confession asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The wonderful answer is “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Prior to my conversion, I had the impression that the study of theology was arid, intellectual, dry, and boring. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The pursuit of the knowledge of God has introduced me to great people, great authors, great ministries, and great thoughts.
Ever since then I have been on a journey to learn as much as I can about this God who called me. I am a pastor, but I didn’t go to seminary in order to enter the ministry. (During those first days of my Christian walk, I would lie in bed awake, fearful that God might require me to be a minister or a missionary.) I went for theological study because I wanted to learn more about God.
Frankly, it is good to know God. It’s how we learn to make sense of the world and especially of ourselves. Protestant Reformer John Calvin wrote, “Our wisdom . . . consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”2 He continues, “By the knowledge of God, I understand that by which we not only conceive that there is some God, but also apprehend what it is for our interest.”3
So how do we get to know this God so that we can enjoy Him? As Christians we believe that God has not left us to wander in the dark. Daily, moment by moment, all that He has created points to and speaks of Him. As David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God . . . even if there are no words, they continually speak of him” (Ps. 19:1–3). Part of the satisfaction of studying about God is learning to experience the fullness of His presence. The knowledge of God is all around us if only we could see it. Gerard Manley Hopkins enthused, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
If we are to learn to hear silent declarations of creation, we need help. While the heavens declare the glory of God, they don’t declare His name, that is, His personality and character. The existence of multiple religions makes it clear that humankind can and has drawn many different conclusions about who God is and what He is like.
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