Every Statement is a Theological Statement

Last year I co-taught a Sunday school class on some basic theology: Christology and Pneumatology, the Incarnation and the Trinity, stuff like that. I started the very first session by pointing out that – whether we realize it or not – we make theological pronouncements all the time.

“I believe in God”

“Prayer is powerful”

“Jesus is my savior”

Each of these is packed with theology* if you think about it a second, and you can probably come up with a number of Bible verses that speak to each of these. But what about more mundane statements?

“I love my family”

“It’s great to have a job you like”

“Pepperoni pizza is awesome!”

How are these theological? God’s common blessings are for everyone; that’s why they’re called common. So here we see these blessings:

Family is ordained by God – “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number’.” (Genesis 1:28.)

Work is ordained by God – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15.)

Enjoying food is ordained by God – “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.'” (Genesis 2:16.)

I’m especially tickled by that last one. Adam and Eve were free to try out different foods and eat the ones they liked. That meant that they could also avoid those that didn’t suit their taste buds. What wonderful grace for our taste buds!

***

Keeping in mind that every statement is a theological statement, what theology have you been talking about lately even if you didn’t realize it a the time?

What Bible passages help you understand the theology behind your statement?

***

*Atheists talk theology too. Every time they say they don’t believe in God they are making a theological statement.

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21 Responses to Every Statement is a Theological Statement

  1. Nick says:

    Yes and Amen, Tim. How about some Disney movie classics: “Believe in yourself!” or “Go for your dreams!”

  2. [thinking…] I’m going to have to pay attention to what I say today and come back to this!

  3. ” Every time they say they don’t believe in God they are making a theological statement”

    It’s a statement about religion or theology. If you’re defining ‘theological statement’ as loosely as this, yeah sure. But sometimes defining something so loosely is just confusing.

    As an example, I present the people who say “God is Love”. Which is a fine statement, but confusing. Is god ONLY love? In which case, why not use the word ‘love’? Is god MORE than love? Then why use ‘love’?

    But I’m weird and nitpicky, so what do I know?

    • Tim says:

      I don’t think you are weird and nitpicky at all, NAS. I think you are really proving the point that every statement, either overtly or otherwise, is a statement about God. That doesn’t mean they are all correct statements, either in whole or in part. But everything we say or do touches on who God is and our understanding of him even if we get that understanding wrong.

    • NAS, I’m curious — as an atheist, how do do explain the existence of love?
      As Tolstoy pointed out, “Loving one’s neighbor reason could never discover because it’s unreasonable.” I’m not at all implying that atheists don’t love their neighbors! But what is the scientific explanation for doing so?

      • Are you asking about the existence of love, or the reason for being loving/kind to neighbors/strangers? Or both?

        Love is an emotion that we, as social mammals, evolved over time. We can see it in other creatures, or a version of it, in the mothering instinct.

        It isn’t unreasonable to love your neighbor, depending what you mean by ‘love’. We’re social mammals, as I said. Rationally, it is beneficial to me to encourage a society where people help one another, as one day I might require help. Irrationally, it just feels good to help other people. Probably as a result of our evolution as social animals that, when they’re social, are more likely to survive as a species.

        • OK, I can wrap my mind around some of that. When I was breastfeeding if I heard an infant cry at the supermarket, my milk would let down. (Of course, I believe that is how I was created, but we don’t need to go down that road today!) And certainly — as my mother always says — it’s helpful to “stock one’s shelves”. If I take meals to the ladies in my church after they have babies, maybe one day they’ll remember me when I’m in need.

          But there are times when love hurts, when it’s done in secret and sacrificially — with no hope of acknowledgment or reward. After it’s done, you look back and say, how did I do that? And you know absolutely that you didn’t do it. Such love defies instinct. At the bottom of it is a peace that passes understanding.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Tim, do you mean “All statements are theological” in the sense of “Every time we speak we’re saying something about our world view and our beliefs”? That makes sense to me — but I thought “theology” meant “the study of God.” If I say, “Mmm, this pizza is awesome” then I’m not studying God, though I may be reveling in the enjoyment of His good gifts. Are you saying those are the same thing?

    • Tim says:

      Sure, Jeannie, in the sense that every statement we make is a reflection of doctrine somehow. Some reflections are warped, but they are still reflections, since God is the source of all that is good. When it comes to all that is bad, those are perversions of God, so still count as revelatory in the negative sense.

      I guess what I’m getting at is that someone can’t say “I think I’ll play golf today” and then realistically assert that their decision to do so does not touch somehow on their relationship with God. Sure they can deny his existence, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. They can claim that what they do doesn’t matter to him, but that doesn’t make God care less for their choices. Theology is behind every statement we make and everything we do, whether we know it or not.

      Am I using theology in a broader sense than a seminary course might? Yes. But I mean it in the sense that everything is related to who God is, as well as our understanding of him. It’s that relational and understanding aspect that makes this theology to my way of thinking.

  5. “And you know absolutely that you didn’t do it. ”

    On this point you and I will fundamentally disagree. At least, we disagree on it’s accuracy in relation to reality. I’m sure people feel that way…but it doesn’t make it true.

    • Also…

      “with no hope of acknowledgment or reward. ”

      You are still encouraging a type of society that could potentially benefit you in the long run. I’m not saying that the person doing this is selfish. But it does end up as a beneficial thing, even if you’re making a sacrifice in the short run.

    • NAS, you debate like a gentleman. We’ve boiled things down together.Thank you. Speaking of neighbors though, mine is coming over for dinner tonight — and if I don’t get off the computer he might not love me anymore!!! I’ll try to drop back into this conversation this evening. Have a great day, friend.

  6. Aimee Byrd says:

    I’ve just returned from our women’s Bible study and we are in Hebrews 13. We just had such a great discussion about how theological “hospitality” is. And not only the Biblical historical examples that the verse refers to going all the way back to Abraham in Genesis, but how Jesus Christ is the Ultimate in hospitality, as he has done every work to prepare a place for us now. Also, how God has given us creation to enjoy and have vocation in, provided for our needs, and our greatest need and protection in Christ, all the while sending us off with blessings from the meal. He is the ultimate host and we are the strangers that he has drawn in…I’m condensing this terribly, but my point is how something as basic as hospitality has such theological implications.

    • Tim says:

      Exactly, Aimee. Hospitality is a universal component for society, practiced and admired worldwide, and it’s theological significance is manifest throughout as well. That women’s Bible study sounds rich. I am so glad I can benefit from it when you bring it up at your blog and in comments!

      • Mary Anne says:

        “What wonderful grace for our taste buds!”

        One of my friends gave me a present yesterday. It was a bag of goodies that included hot cocoa mix and in the bag was a little postcard that read, “Love People–Cook Them Tasty Food.” It went right up on my fridge where I could see it every day. Lots of applications for that—literal, metaphorical, and scriptural.

        And about that grace for our taste buds . . . that’s all very well and good, but I usually find myself needing grace for the inevitable results of gratifying my taste buds too much and too often. (Poking at midriff) Begone, muffin top!! 😉

        • Tim says:

          That’s a great post card, MA. And I agree about the muffin top experience* too!

          Tim

          *Mountain top experiences are what Christians get when away on retreat. Muffin top experiences are what they get when they go to the church pot luck.

  7. I guess my current theology talk has centered around caring for my family and taking a lot of rest. Rest is ordained by God — whowouldathunkit? 🙂

    We’ve been talking lots of theology around here lately — more of the Presbyterian kind though. Elliott just returned from the EPC Presbytery and we’ve been relishing being in a denomination we can really stand behind. It’s so funny – I didn’t grow up Presbyterian, but living here in PA, it’s as if EVERYONE around us is Presbyterian (except for our Irish-Catholic neighbors), and all different kinds. We know WAY too much about the differing Presbyterian theologies.

    • Tim says:

      How fun to be able to talk doctrine, though, when it comes to comparative statements of faith within the church. And I’m right there with you on that rest thing, Rachel. Matthew 11:28? Yes, please!

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