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Theology Proper: The Antidote to Insatiable Desire

Editor: In our Theology Proper: The Antidote to Insatiable Desire we are seeking to understand how knowing God is indispensable to make, mature, and multiply disciples. We want to explicitly connect the theology of the church to its mission.

As far back as I remember I’ve lived with an insatiable appetite. I’ve always hungered for more—more of a good meal or a good feeling or a good moment. Regardless of how satisfying the food or the experience or the relationship may be, I inevitably awake desiring more.

It comes as no surprise then that early on I depleted most of my relationships and resources looking for infinite satisfaction in finite things. Obviously, my friends (and boyfriends!) couldn’t offer the deep sense of happiness and harmony I frantically pursued, so I moved on to new friends and new boys and new challenges. Unfortunately, those cisterns also ran dry. I found myself trapped in a cycle of disenchantment as I looked to one fixation after another to fulfill my desire. My soul was ravenous and I feared there was nothing left to feast upon.

Then I met God.

Feasting on God’s Inexhaustible Nature

When I came into saving relationship with God through the work of Jesus I “stumbled” upon a transforming truth: The only hope for insatiable desire is a Being inexhaustible in natureIn God I found an endless reservoir of glory and delight to feast upon. The well from which I drank seemed to fill up with every sip rather than dry out.

The Scriptures affirm this truth about God’s nature:

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3).

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Ps. 147:5).

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways” (Rom. 11:33).

Page after page is pregnant with the magnitude of God’s being. Bound up in him is endless love, justice, righteousness, mercy, wrath, compassion, faithfulness, goodness, and holiness. He is gentle and terrifying and wonderful all in One. He is blessed and beautiful. He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. He’s unchanging, yet moved by our plight. He’s independent, yet chooses to give us significance. He’s free, yet invites us into his story.

When this disenchanted fifteen-year-old girl came to saving knowledge of that God, I became enchanted in the truest sense of the word. He captivated me. I read the Scriptures in hopes of knowing him more (I had to know him more!). I studied him and studied him . . . and studied him looking for an end in sight, only to discover there was still more to be devoured. I learned that God’s nature is endless and is to be endlessly explored, experienced, and enjoyed by those who have entered into covenant with him

Think about that. You can explore God, read about him, study him, worship him, pray to him, talk about him, meditate on him, and tomorrow there’s still more—more of him to be discovered, more to study, more to meditate upon, more to worship, and more to talk about. You could spend your whole life mining the riches of God and take your last breath knowing you’ll awake to an eternity of more.

In Psalm 36:8-9, King David rightly exclaims,

“They [the children of mankind] feast on the abundance of your house,

And you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

In your light do we see light.”

Theology Proper As An Antidote to Insatiable Appetite

If God’s nature is an inexhaustible treasure, then theology proper is the discipline that invites us to mine the depths of those riches. Unfortunately, ordinary Christians often pass on this invitation because they think theology is reserved for scholars, theologians, and “high level” pastors. It seems too intimidating for the stay at home mom or busy college student or ministry volunteer. After all, what if we mess it up or don’t get it “right”?

However, the prevailing notion that theology is better left to the “professionals” is totally false. Theology is for you and for me! “Theology” in the broadest sense is simply the “study of God”. As I’ve explained elsewhere,

At its root, theology is the process of thinking about our lives in light of the faith we proclaim. It’s faith that seeks understanding. When we do theology we are attempting to understand who God is, who we are, and how we should live in view of God. To study theology is to study God—to know him better and delight in him more accurately with the hope of glorifying him through our love and obedience. “Redeeming Theology

“Theology Proper” is the name given to the specific branch of theology that focuses on knowing God the Father more fully by thinking well on him and his attributes. It seeks to answer the question, “What is God like?” by examining the multi-faceted nature of his person. Take heart knowing that a child can engage that question. If you were to ask a young boy or girl, “What is God like?” he or she would immediately begin telling you all about God’s nature: He is “big” or “happy” or “everywhere.” Children can do theology proper!

I would encourage you not to feel threatened by words like “theology” and “doctrine.” The way I see it, if a fifteen-year-old unchurched, uneducated, ordinary girl can begin “doing theology” (studying God) then anyone can! It’s a discipline that people of all ages and from all walks of life can and should joyfully take up.

Personally, when I came to saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ my Lord, there was no way I could not explore God. My little, famished heart “happened upon” the most lovely, glorious Being I ever encountered. The deficiency wasn’t in my ravenous appetite, but in the way I directed my desires. I was looking to finite things to experience infinite satisfaction. Those relationships and pursuits couldn’t bear the weight of my desire, but I discovered God could. Not only was God big enough to absorb my endless appetite for “more,” his infinite attributes encouraged me to pursue him with growing affection!

Will You Feast With Us?

If you want to feast at the never-ending banquet and drink from the overflowing fountain that is God then theology proper is for you. If you’ve exhausted all of your resources looking for satisfaction in finite things (even good things!), it’s time to direct your affections towards the study of God, the One worthy of your endless pursuit.

At Gospel-Centered Discipleship, we are convinced that meditating on the attributes of God will offer you perpetual food for your hungry soul. That’s why we are starting a series on Theology Proper: The Antidote to Insatiable Desire. Over the next month we’ll explore God’s being and celebrate his attributes. We’re going to intentionally feast on who God is and what he is like and we want to invite you to that feast!

Will you feast with us?

If you want to participate in the ongoing exploration of God, here are practical ways you can study his attributes during our Theology Proper series:

  1. Commit yourself to Scripture reading. Every day ask yourself, “What is God like in this passage?”
  2. Focus on an attribute of God each week. As you meditate upon it, take time to worship God in response to that particular attribute.
  3. Talk about God and his character to those around you. Discuss what he is like with your children, spouse, friends, missional communities, co-workers, and even (or especially!) unbelievers.
  4. Read an extra-biblical book about God’s attributes. We highly recommend classics such as Knowing God by J.I. Packer, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, or The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. You could even crack open a good systematic theology like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith, or Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology and study the section on Theology Proper.
  5. Read and freely share the articles on God’s attributes at gcdiscipleship.com!

Whitney Woollard has served in ministry alongside her husband Neal for over six years. She holds an undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies from Moody Bible Institute and just finished her Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary. She is passionate about equipping disciples to read and study God’s Word well resulting in maturing affections for Jesus and his gospel message. Neal and Whitney currently live in Portland, OR where they love serving the local church. Follow her on Twitter @whitneywoollard.