There are a number of reasons why it’s both important and enriching to study theology and here I have listed what I think are three of the most important.
Firstly, studying theology is about making sense of some of the great debates and themes of history. It is impossible to study the religious art of the Middle Ages, the great literature of the Renaissance, the history of the sixteenth century, or the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien without knowing something about theology. To study theology is to pass through a gateway which offers an enhanced vision of human thought and history. It’s like a lens that helps bring things into focus.
Secondly, theology enables us to see things through the eyes of others, so that we can gain fresh perspectives on some of the great questions of faith. One of the leading themes of C. S. Lewis’s late work An Experiment in Criticism (1961) is that reading literature enables us to see with the eyes of others, deepening and sometimes challenging our own ideas. To read Augustine, Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas or Karl Barth is to have our eyes opened to other ways of seeing things. We may not agree with them, but their insights help us forge and enrich our own approaches.
Thirdly, studying theology brings new depth and vitality to faith. When the novelist Evelyn Waugh discovered Christianity in 1930, he spoke of beginning the “delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.” Theology is about mapping the landscape of faith, discovering its landmarks, appreciating its inner logic, and experiencing its beauty and richness.