Simply put: the end goal of Christian theology can be nothing short of changed lives. The word “lives” is plural because not only does the learner seek to be transformed by the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or the whole of the biblical narrative, but the leaner also seeks to communicate what he has received to the people around him. In other words, Christian theology must encompass both spiritual transformation and great commission goals.
One of the key words in the title’s question is the word “Christian.” This implies that the exercise of this particular discipline can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit as it transforms the individual Christian. There are two versus that help here. First, 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In other words, someone without the assistance of the Holy Spirit cannot understand the things of God. Gregory Thornbury helps explain this in the first chapter of A Theology for the Church, “It is not that man cannot receive the truth about how he should respond to God but that in his natural state he does not want to receive the truth about the God of the Bible.” This is not only a statement of difficulty for the unbeliever, but also a charge to the Great Commission. One cannot obtain salvation through head knowledge because without salvation, there can be no head knowledge. We must connect people with Christ first.
A second verse that is helpful in understanding the emphasis on “Christian” theology is Colossians 2:3, “in whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This is an amazing declaration! Paul has said that ALL wisdom and knowledge are in Jesus. Outside of Him there can be no understanding of how everything fits together in an individual life or in the universe as a whole. The Christian need not follow any “wind of doctrine” or the “trickery or man” because they are false and only imitations of the only real truth.
The before mentioned goal of Christian theology can also read, “the end goal of Christian theology can be nothing short of knowing God and making Him known.” The verb knowing and the term “changed lives” can be interchangeable in the definition. The reason for this is that knowing God, growing in the knowledge of Christ, leads to change. I’ve heard someone illustrate it this way, “If I told you that I had been run over by a truck, you would expect to see the marks that proved I was hit by a truck. How much more should my life look different after an encounter with the living God?” We should seek to live radical lives for Jesus and his kingdom. This ambition begins with knowing our Savior and the good news of God’s meta-narrative. However, this cannot be the end. Gregory Thornbury, in his definition of theology makes the great commission his focus, “a good definition of theology is: ‘the attempt to explain God’s self-disclosure in a consistently faithful manner.’” Notice the emphasis on sharing verbally. Ultimately, our goal as Christians is to not simply know God, but know God for the purpose of others knowing Him as well.
This is life-giving!