The world can be really confusing for teenagers. We’re coming of age in a shifting moral landscape, where the most pressing challenges and culture’s loudest critics are ever changing and perpetually conflicting. We see scandals and soundbytes, terrorism and Trump, new sexual ethics and harsh racial tensions, and we wonder, How am I supposed to think about all this?
Secular society throws its own answers our way, but they’re never compatible with a Christian worldview.
I see a better tool to meet the questions of Christ-following teenagers like me: theology.
Why Theology for Teens?
I’m pretty sure you know what theology is. But sometimes people have such nuanced and experiential conceptions of what a word means that they obscure its plain definition. I want you to know I’m talking about the plainest definition of theology there is: the study of God.
As a Jesus-following teenager, I believe studying God’s character is what teenagers need in order to face our terribly complicated world. It’s what will give us lasting hope to face our future with a firm commitment to God’s truth.
Let me explain how theology answers our biggest questions and meets our greatest needs. Of course, this is only the briefest beginning, but it gets us started.
1. Studying God’s justice equips us to do what’s right.
In God’s Word we discover that God hates evil (Zech. 8:16–17) and loves truth. He cares about the oppressed and outcast, and he values all life.
Knowing this character of God gives teenagers the drive to care about justice too. It pushes us to stand up for the oppressed and voiceless, and speak out against the injustice we see. It shows us the importance of submitting to God-given authorities—our parents, pastors, teachers, and government. And it fuels our obedience to God’s Word as the ultimate standard of justice.
2. Studying God’s love gives us the foundation for all our relationships,
God loves his people unconditionally (Neh. 1:5; John 16:27). He doesn’t show favoritism, and his love is never selfish. Nor can it be stopped or exhausted, for it’s unmerited and undeserved.
Knowing this character of God compels teenagers to love others because of God’s love for us. It compels us to love those who are most difficult to love—all the way from ISIS to the bullies at schools—while still hating our own sin. It compels us to fight against racism, sexism, and any other –ism that undermines the inherent value of every human. It compels us to embrace compassion and mercy.
3. Studying God’s holiness reveals who we are and what our purpose is.
Since he is supremely perfect and totally set apart from us (2 Sam. 22:31), God hates sin (Amos 6:8). Grasping the beauty of his holiness helps teenagers understand our own sin and the need to persistently war against it. It gives us a more biblical and realistic perspective of the world. It leads us to repent of the sin in our own lives and seek accountability from those older and wiser. And it demonstrates for us how to actively pursue holiness—on social media, at school and work, with parents and friends, and in every sphere of life.
4. Studying God’s sovereignty gives us answers amid cultural confusion.
God isn’t chaotic, capricious, or unpredictable; he’s in perfect control of the universe (Acts 2:23). Knowing this attribute of God keeps teenagers from growing discouraged at the world. When politics seem hopeless or terrorists attack or we get an unfair grade, teenagers can be content in our circumstances because God reigns. When we ask “Why is this happening to me?” or “Does God even care about my life?” his sovereignty is our answer. C. S. Lewis explained this point well:
I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?
5. Studying God’s goodness gives us comfort in our pain.
God isn’t mean. He isn’t a career fun-sucker, toying with our lives like a cruel board game (Mark 10:18). He is completely good, unfailingly kind, and always doing what’s right and best for us.
Knowing this character of God gives teenagers a rock-solid foundation of faith in the midst of suffering. Teenagers can have peace about our unknown futures. We can have certainty of our salvation and combat the pressures of doubt. We can trust God in the everyday troubles, problems, and failures of life with an unshakeable assurance of his goodness.
Teach Us What We Need
I’m 18. I’ve studied and been taught theology all my life. It’s given me many things: a richer relationship with God; a stronger and more submissive relationship with my parents; a more discerning relationship with my friends; a more edifying approach to social media; a zealous desire to do my best in school; a biblical worldview; a bigger vision for my future; and a greater passion to follow God no matter what.
I want that life for every teenager, and I think you do, too. So parents, pastors, youth leaders, church members, please teach us theology. More than anything else, we need to know God. He’s the answer to our questions, the solution to our problems, the only One worthy of our worship and trust.
We need him, which means we need to be taught about him.
Which means we need theology.