I have written only once on why I think everyone is, in some sense, a theologian (“Everyone Is a Theologian”). Here, I’d like to spell out more specifically why I think that way.
Let me start with a basic question: who are you? I’m not trying to be abstract. I’m just trying to get you to reflect for a minute on the sort of creature you are, what your purpose is in this little life we’ve been given. My answer, take it or leave it, is that you and I are covenant creatures. What do I mean by that? The short of it is that you and I were born into a life that is bound up in relationship with God, a specific type of relationship called a “covenant.” We can’t get away from it; we can’t write God off; we can’t change that fundamental fact. We were born into relationship with the God who is a relationship: the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Being a covenant creature means that our relationship with God is our context for life. What we do or don’t do, what we think or don’t think, what we say or don’t say—it all happens in the context of this relationship. But, as I’ve already said, our relationship is covenantal. And a covenant is a deep and intimate bond with promises and expectations on both sides. On God’s side, he promised to be with us (hence one of his famous biblical names, Emmanuel, the “with-us God”). We expect love, guidance, and communion from him. On our side, we promised to trust and follow what he said, for our good and for his glory. God expects faithfulness, trust, and obedience from us.
It was in the context of this covenantal relationship that the first humans, Adam and Eve, began their life. And what did they do in that primal era of human history? Essentially, there were only two things that consumed their time: (1) speaking with God (a clear implication of Gen. 3:8–13) and (2) doing all that God asked them to do (i.e., tending the garden; Gen. 2:15). And here’s the important point: in both speaking with God doing all that he asked them to do, Adam and Eve were studying God; they were learning more about who he was.
Many dreadful things have happened in the history of the world since that time—too many things to get into in a short article like this. But the fundamentals of who we are still haven’t changed. We are still covenant creatures. We are still in a relationship with God. The amazing good news of the gospel is that God has fulfilled both sides of the covenant: he did what he promised to do, even though he was under no obligation, and he did what we should have done, at the cost of his own Son. The Christian message is that God made a covenant with us and then proceeded to restore and fulfill it out of grace. The God who is a relationship, made a relationship (creation), fixed a relationship (redemption), and fulfilled a relationship (the person and work of Jesus Christ) with us.
Now, how in the world is this related to our being theologians? Well, we’re still treading the path that Adam and Eve once tread. We are meant to spend our time speaking with God and following his life-giving words. That means we are still born as God-studiers. In speaking with God and following his words, we learn more about him and the world he has made, a world that everywhere reflects him. That is what we are born to do. We may not see it right now. Maybe we aren’t even aware of the truth that what we do each day can teach us much about who God is and what he is doing in the world. But a student is still a student even if he doesn’t know he’s in class.
So, it’s not just the case that everyone can be a theologian, or that some people are born to study God. It’s your covenant-centered destiny to study God, to spend your whole life learning more about him, what he is like, what purposes he might have for you. In this sense, being a theologian isn’t really a choice we make. It’s a God-given destiny that he helps us fulfill.
So, in the end, we’re all theologians, because we were theologians from the very beginning.