Theologians spend years in seminary. They study the ins and outs of Scripture and seek to know the person of God more deeply. They are academics who use logic and the scientific method to discover truths about our Creator.
But as we live our lives and as we work as civic leaders, what does this have to do with us?
Before we can answer that question, we have to ask another question –
What is the difference between systematic theology and theology in culture?
The Difference Between Systematic Theology and Theology in Culture
“Theology in culture” is a phrase which I first heard BILD, International use. They have an entire course for their Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development which focuses on this issue.
Systematic theology as an academic discipline largely focuses on questions which became important during the Reformation – What is the nature of salvation? What is the ontological nature of Christ? What is baptism? Does anything happen to the bread and wine during communion? These questions focus on building up knowledge.
If you can read between the lines, you’ll see that these types of questions do not actually inform our lives in the area of civic leadership.
But theology in culture, on the other hand, gives us plenty of guidance as we lead cities and nations.
Theology in culture starts with a set of questions, as well. But these questions are very different in nature. They focus on the needs of the people around us at the time. And it focuses on application, rather than knowledge for its own sake.
For example, our questions in America today might look something more like this – How should the church address mental health? How should the church handle the homeless? What does work have to do with our faith?
So to respond to the question posed in the title of this article, I’d say the answer is, “A lot”. Theology does not have to be theoretical and academic. In fact, for the Apostles, theology was paramount to our lives. And for civic leaders specifically, theology points us toward being politicians who truly honor God.
Theology Defines Our Political Stances
If you go a step further with theology in culture, you’re necessarily going to touch on hot button issues which consume the political arena today. The questions are being asked, and it’s our job as Christian civic leaders to find the answers in Scripture. Here are some of the subjects that the people want answers for, which are addressed through the principles in the Bible, if you are disciplined enough to discern them:
- national debt
- homosexual marriage
- poverty and homelessness
- mental health
- health and wellness
Theology Gives Our Role in Government a Purpose
From an ontological perspective, we know that God designed government, since He is the one who put all civic leaders in their position. We also know this because God had a purpose from the very beginning to put Jesus as a literal, governmental King over all creation.
So your role as a government leader is designated by God. That means that the work you do has eternal significance. It’s not just a job you do for a while until your term is up.
I can see two implications.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-2 implies that those in government should help the people live in peace and quiet.
- Other passages make it clear that we are to be defenders of those who cannot defend themselves.
Assuming you also have honesty and integrity in your work, you can be confident that if you work to make these two things happen, then you are fulfilling your God-given purpose.
Theology Provides a Lifestyle for Our Politeia
Politeia is a word explained in depth in another article. Summarily, it means our public lives. It is the greek word from which we get the English word Politics. But it is very different from how we use it today.
Everything we do in the public, and for the people, is our politeia. And it can either be good or bad.
The Scriptures, if you can guess, tell us that our public lives need to be good. As a civic leader, you are necessarily a public figure, and your lives will be on display. You need to make sure your politeia is righteous in the people’s sight so that you can honor God.
More specifically, the Bible tells us what kind of actions we need to include in our politeia.
- Taking care of widows and orphans (James 1:27)
- Doing good works (Titus 3:1-2)
- Meet urgent needs in the community (Titus 3:14)
- Be hospitable to strangers (Matthew 25:34-40) (This one about hospitality is huge, one of the most important. Check out another article for further explanation)
- Love your neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40)
Be a Leader
So be thankful that you have the role you do. You have great influence. You can make changes for the good. You can lead the community closer to Christ.Be the #leader #God designed. Click To Tweet
Let theology in culture inform your political stances, your purpose, and your politeia.
Be the leader God designed. Use your gifts to serve the people.
And do it all for the glory of God.
Also published on Medium.