Practical Theology: What Is It and Why Should I Care?

Lindsey Carlson

Worship Rejoices
Updated Sep 21, 2021
Practical Theology: What Is It and Why Should I Care?
What you know about God matters.

A week ago, I sat across my kitchen table from a friend. We chatted about God, his goodness, and freedom from our sins. And then we talked about the problem that seems to plague us all; we act as though God’s grace is for everyone but us.

Perhaps you’ve been there too. A friend’s husband loses his job and you offer the words of Romans 8:28. “For we know all things work together for the good of those he loves,” you encourage her. But do your words have the backing of your heart? Do you believe the consolation you’re using to council her? Would you immediately go to that scripture in your time of doubt and need?

In my life there have been seasons where pain and suffering revealed I didn’t believe God’s word. Maybe it seemed like a good concept but didn’t apply to me. I confessed with my mouth, but I didn’t cling to his promises with everything inside.

In the preface of Wendy Horger Alsup’s book, Practical Theology for Women, Alsup assures us she’s familiar with this “little” problem that threatens our faith.

“I knew in theory that God does all these things, and yet my knowledge of God was still only just starting to meet me in the practical areas of life.”

Alsup opens the book by cautioning readers against looking at the Bible as a “cheesy Christian desk calendar,” offering the “simple practical, everyday application stuff for the average Christian, and another, perhaps higher, level of spiritual study reserved for pastors and seminary graduates.”

As the wife of a pastor and a seminary student, I clicked instantly with these words. In the beginning of our marriage, I often felt ill-equipped to handle the deeper issues of scripture. I felt I needed to constantly seek my husband or another pastor for explanation, rather than realizing that I too, had the spirit of the living God breathing life into the very words on the page.

As followers of Christ, we should care about doctrinal issues and unfamiliar passages that sometimes seem confusing. We can’t look at the Bible as a compilation of quotes to keep us out of trouble and in God’s good graces. Digging into the meat of God’s word and moving past the memorize-a-phrase-of-two to get by, will not anchor our faith in the promises of God. Understanding theology, gives foundation and weight to the faith we claim to be held by.

What Is Theology?

“According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, theology is defined in three ways:

1. The study of the nature of God and religious truth.

2. A system or school of opinions concerning God and religious questions: Protestant theology, Jewish theology.

3. A course of specialized religious study usually at a college or seminary.”

“Should the study of God and deep religious truth be restricted to the academic elite at colleges and seminaries?

I’ve encountered this attitude among many Godly women and it makes me sad. I want these women to embrace truths about depravity, election, atonement, sovereignty, and grace, that have been instrumental to my spiritual freedom. God faithfully met me in my pursuit and through his Holy Spirit, gave me the wisdom to not only understand his word, but make all of these seemingly untouchable theological concepts, practical to my daily life.

Knowing God is Practical

By looking at Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 111:10, and Proverbs 15:33, Alsup points out that “wise, practical, daily living is preceded by a knowledge of God.” She concludes that it is this knowledge that leads to “fear, awe, and reverence of him, his power, and his purposes. “In other words, Theology is the root, foundation, and framework for practical living that reflects wisdom and understanding.”

Christ is Our High Priest

Jesus isn’t just our Sunday School answer. We don’t slap his name on the end of a prayer and call it “good.” He is our High Priest who atones for our sins. “Upon salvation, we have Christ as our mediator and intercessor before God.” Knowing this and practically living it out, is essential to our faith. “If you know Christ as your Savior, you have the same Holy Spirit residing in your heart, the same Word of God at your fingertips, and the same access to the presence of God as the wisest and most godly spiritual leader you know of today.”

“It’s a copout to leave the deep things of God to the pastors and seminary graduates when, in Christ, we have the same access to God that they do. That was never what God intended.”

Seek God

In this final section of chapter one, Alsup pleads for readers to seek God’s face and avoid the desk calendar approach to Christianity. “Don’t be satisfied with a daily practical saying or some three-step process for being a good wife or a better friend. God has both called you and equipped you to know him.”

Are you living the desk calendar approach or digging deep into the richness of God’s beauty? Ask God to give you a passion for his word and a fear that leads to wisdom. 

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