If you’ve been in a church for any length of time, you may have heard someone state that everyone is a theologian. Books have been written on the premise; countless sermons have begun with that line; all making the claim that, though most people think of theology only as the discipline of dry seminarians, all people actually operate on the basis of some conclusion they’ve made about God — consciously or subconsciously.
While I don’t particularly like the attitude with which the statement is usually offered — the intention is usually to say something that seems counter-intuitive, in the same way that one would mention at a party that flying an airplane is many times safer than driving a car — I believe it, and I also believe it is more meaningful than one would casually think at first. I suppose this betrays my own intention to write something that would strike a reader as counter-intuitive, but… I digress.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in God — you have still reached a conclusion about God.
Your theology may simply be that God doesn’t exist, or it may be every bit as deep and involved as that of the oldest Presbyterian seminary professor. If you are yourself an atheist, know that I don’t consider the atheist’s conclusions to be necessarily shallow — I know that many of us religious types could be one cataclysmic life experience away from drawing the same conclusions ourselves.
But belief in God’s existence or non-existence doesn’t change the fact that one has at least considered the concept and come to a conclusion.
The God-concept conclusion governs all other conclusions, decisions, and emotions.
I’m hoping the reader will allow me the leap I’ve made with the above heading — the “God-concept conclusion” is our answer to the question of God’s existence, along with all of our beliefs about that existence. In an effort to spare us a lengthy trip through the usual “I think, therefore I am” paths that these discussions usually take, I am making this claim without much justification, hoping that it will be received with an open mind: our conclusions about God’s existence govern, consciously and subconsciously, all of our other conclusions, decisions, and emotions.
I realize that I’ve just made a rather large claim; however, taking that for granted a little bit, I’m choosing to limit the discussion at this time on the decisions that one makes in one’s lifetime — and limit that even further to the kinds of decisions that are rather large and involve large sums of money, time, or personal energy. The conclusions and emotions, we can talk about at a later date.
Most of our big decisions come from somewhere deep down
One may say that they bought their house because of their preference for its red door or white picket fence, but before seeing the house, value judgments were no doubt made, and those value judgments necessarily came from some value system in one’s head where one has made a conclusion about God’s existence. The fact that one would see the location of a domicile as completely unconnected to a belief about the existence of God betrays several related conclusions that had been made long before the purchase of that home became a possibility. Conversely, choosing a location because of some idea about God and his ongoing activity in one’s life also betrays an alternative set of conclusions.
And I believe it is fair to suppose that a change made to the basic God-concept conclusion would necessitate — at least eventually, as subsequent conclusions succeed in seeping out into the rest of one’s life — life-altering decisions made down the line.
Weirdly enough, there is an application for this post. Go out there and read. Read, read, read — and then think, think, think. It just happens that my reading recommendations are generally Christian, as my understanding of God is from a Christian perspective. But I believe not only that he exists, but that he is living and active, and is able to lead those who honestly search for him into all truth.
So at the very least, invest some of your mental energy into the God-conclusion. I believe it’s worth the time.