The Link Between Theology and Ethics

The Link Between

In the fall of 2004, my junior year in high school, my football team ran the veer. If you are not familiar with football, the veer is an option-based offense that requires the quarterback to read certain key defenders after the snap. Depending on which defender comes free, the QB has an option to hand the ball to the fullback, keep the ball or pitch it to the halfback. Over the years, the veer grew in popularity. However, it was entrenched in football lore when Coach Boone famously bragged about its effectiveness.

In the fall of 2005, my senior year, we abandoned the veer. Turns out, it is not like novocaine and it doesn’t always work. During the previous summer, the coaching staff thought that our team was equipped to run the spread. The veer relies on a combination of good decisions and power. The spread relies on one thing, speed.

The goal of the spread is to literally spread the defense out and then get isolated matchups of a fast player covered by a slower player. Considering four of our players had set all kinds of records at the conference track meet, the spread seemed a perfect fit. Our coaching staff saw a clearer picture of our team and then switched our behavior on the field. This process has parallels to a valuable spiritual principle I recently learned.

That principle is that theology drives ethics. Theology, or what we think about who God is will always shape our ethics, or how we act in life. To grow, we come to a more accurate understanding of who God is and we change our behavior in response.

Theology, or what we think about who God is will always shape our ethics, how we act in life.

To illustrate, if we think God is only wrathful and merciless, then we labor to obey and please God so that we don’t incur his wrath.

If we only think of God as loving and graceful, then we lose the need for obedience and devotion because we think that ultimately God will forgive us when we do whatever pleases us.

However, in reality, God is both. An accurate understanding of theology will help us be disciplined and devoted holding Gods view of sin in one hand. Yet, on the other hand, we know that we are redeemed from his wrath so we can allow our hearts to trust God in our failure.

By understanding this principle, the value of theological study grows immensely. However, if I am being honest, I don’t always value it. The difficult part is that studying theology is deep, overwhelming and often leaves me thinking, what does this have to do with my everyday life.

In response, the value of Theological study grows immensely.

The reality is that it has everything to do with my everyday life. I only can have good ethics when I have good theology. Paul makes this connection in 1 Timothy. After talking about the value of having sound doctrine in Chapter 1, Paul urges Timothy in 4:7, “Have nothing to do with irreverent silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness…”

Irreverent silly myths are bad theology. Paul is implying, if you want to be Godly, you need to have an accurate view of who God is. Training yourself for godliness starts with a correct view of God. I have seen a clear view of God change the way I live. Just this semester I have seen the events in the Garden of Eden clearer, and it shapes how I view my own personal success. I have learned about God’s omniscience, and it has helped me trust God’s provision. Lastly, I have seen the Father and his role as father in a clearer manner, and it has encouraged me to be a better dad. The takeaway, there is great value in studying Theology so we can know more about who God is.

There are two additional points that come to mind when talking about theology and ethics. First, we can’t change people’s ethics without engaging with people and changing their view of God. When we as Christians don’t like the ethics of a culture, the best route isn’t to call for ethical reform from an unengaged position. We have to focus on engaging that culture and introducing people in that culture to a clear and full view of who God is. If millennials need to have an eternal perspective, then show them God’s heart for the lost. If boomers need to disciple and lead more, show them how God sent his son to serve those under him. I think it’s easy to complain about the different ethics of another group without engaging with them. However, it’s only when we are exposed to God’s nature do we really change our actions.

Second, when talking about theology, a helpful resource is the convictions, persuasions, opinions chart. I will post this chart on Thursday. It helps clarify “hills to die on” theologically. I like it because it allows us to unite as followers of Christ, despite our varying interpretations.

The take home is two-fold. One study who God is. Second, instead of complaining about the ethics of a nation, generation, or any other people group, work to show them who God is and the implications that will have on how they act.

Is there a time in your life where you have seen a more clear picture of God and it has changed your behavior? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.


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