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What is the Nature of Religion? Theology

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series

"Worldview-Forming Worship"

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Broadly speaking, theology is how we intentionally answer the questions James Sire provided (see last week’s post) that form the assumptions at the core of our worldview. What we believe about the nature of reality, the purpose and meaning of life, the basis of right and wrong, and most importantly God form our theology. Theology and worldview are, therefore, very closely related—they both involve answers to the same sorts of questions, and they both fundamentally influence the way we live. The difference I am drawing between them is that the assumptions that form worldview are fundamentally subconscious and unstated, while the beliefs that form theology are consciously affirmed. Theology is fundamentally propositional, while worldview is affective. Theology is usually more deliberately developed than worldview, often explicitly taught and based on sacred documents. For Israel and Christianity, of course, theology is based on the divine revelation found in Scripture.

Worldview and theology interact dynamically. On the one hand, our fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality affect the kind of theology we are willing to accept; sometimes the worldview a person has inculcated early in life will make accepting certain theological propositions more difficult unless he is willing to adjust his worldview. On the other hand, as we consciously develop a theology, that theology can begin to reform our worldview, especially if we are aware of conflict between our worldview and theology. This lies at the root of Jesus’s command, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (Jn 15:1); he was commanding his disciples to change the orientation of the hearts through a change in belief.

Like worldview, our theology fundamentally affects how we live. As A. W. Tozer famously stated, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” However, if a conflict does exist between our worldview and our theology, and we are unaware of that conflict, at the end of the day our worldview is more fundamental. In other words, we may consciously say we believe certain things, but if we have not worked to change the orientation of our hearts to reflect our stated beliefs, our heart’s orientation is what will ultimately determine how we live.

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About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.