“I don’t need theology; I just need Jesus.”
“I’m not a Bible major, so theology doesn’t really matter to me.”
I often hear comments like these from Christians on college campuses as excuses for not studying theology. Far too often, these students consider themselves exempt from theological studies because of their church attendance and campus ministry involvement.
Why More Theology?
Many students juggle busy social lives, sports, academics, work, club involvement, relationships, and family, but fail to grow in their understanding of who God is. This leaves them longing for more depth, without the bandwidth to pursue it. As a result, they allow quickly acquired, surface-level theology to shape their worldview.
Theology is simply the study of God, and it points us in the direction of what matters both for this life and into eternity: knowing God and being known by him. Without a solid theological foundation that is based on God’s Word, our understanding of who God is can quickly become unguided and dangerous. We can become like a sailor navigating a storm without a compass. This is why college students need more theology, not less. Consider three ways studying theology benefits college students.
- Theology Affects Everyday Christian Faith
Theology shapes our everyday experiences as Christians. For example, it shapes the way we worship, how we interact with the church, and our own time with the Lord. Unfortunately, we often look to podcasts, articles, social media, and other books to shape our thinking. Even though in many ways these outlets can be helpful, we are often led astray or distracted from the truth.
If we make intentional efforts to know God according to his Word, including how he has revealed himself to us through concepts like grace, mercy, righteousness, and holiness, we will experience deeper and greater growth in our faith. As Wayne Grudem notes, theology affects the decisions we make:
In every area of inquiry certain theological principles will come to bear, and those who have learned well the theological teachings of the Bible will be much better able to make decisions that are pleasing to God.
From reading the Bible to managing finances, everything is impacted by the principles gained from rich theological study. As God’s people, we ought to joyfully submit to the teachings of Scripture as it transforms our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit—all so that God would be glorified (Colossians 3:17).
- Theology Confronts Unbiblical Alternatives
College students equipped with sound theology have a greater ability to confront the unbiblical alternatives they are taught and influenced by. The apostle Paul encourages Timothy (who may not have been too much older than many college students) to “preach the Word” because “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:2–5).
Peter also warns his readers that some twist the Scriptures to “their own destruction” (2 Peter 3: 16). Christian college students must study Scripture diligently, conform their lives to it, and foster theological discernment so that they are not deceived by false teaching.
- Theology Helps Us Live Out the Great Commission.
Finally, theology, or the study of knowing God, is part of living out the Great Commission. In some of Jesus’ last words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus commands his disciples to “make disciples,” which involves teaching them “to observe all that [Jesus has] commanded” (Matthew 28:19). Under the authority of our Master, we have the opportunity not only to study who he is according to the Word, but also to teach others as well.
The church is in desperate need of a theological awakening, one that sparks the flame in college students to dig deep in the Scriptures, to set an example in living as God’s people, and to wave the gospel banner boldly and faithfully in a world that’s in desperate need of the hope that is found in Christ alone. People are thirsting for more in their lives because they’ve found that the things of this current age cannot satisfy them. Jonathan Edwards talked about a thirst that cannot be quenched by this world:
This holy thirst is spoken of, as a great thing in the condition of a participation in the blessings of eternal life.
In Revelation 22:17, Jesus gives this glorious invitation for those longing for more: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take from the water of life without price.” Accept the invitation from our Lord, and may he be the wellspring of your soul as you delight in him. For college students, and for all Christians, that’s the end goal of theology.
 The ESV Study Bible notes that Timothy may have been anywhere from his late 20s to mid-30s at this time. See the comments on 1 Timothy 4:12 on pg. 2332.