Spiritual Practice

The Study of God

Sarah Arthur

Have you asked a question about God? Then you’ve done theology. Theology is the study of God. It comes from two Greek words: theos (“God”) and logos (“word” or “teaching”). Some people devote their academic and professional careers to the study of theology; and yet, in a sense, every Christian is a theologian. We have made God our lifelong field of study. We want to know God better, so we seek God not in complicated intellectual questions but in everyday life.


blackberries Ftr TSP 453862785Burning Bushes

In Aurora Leigh, Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:

     Earth’s crammed with heaven,
     And every common bush afire with God;
     But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
     The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries.

The poem alludes to the story in Exodus 3:1–6. When Moses saw a bush on fire, blazing but not consumed, he took off his shoes because he knew he was in the presence of God. And God spoke to him out of the burning bush.

Not many of us will encounter a shrub on fire and the audible voice of God. Yet, as Browning suggests in her poem, God’s presence is all around us. When we look at the world, we see the hand of God in everything—in the beauty of a pine tree at dusk, in the healing of a broken relationship, in the sound of laughter.

We do everyday theology whenever we go blackberry picking or whenever we pick up our Blackberries, for that matter. But not everyone sees God in the world or is interested in knowing God better. And those of us who are often have to work at it.


Taking Off Our Shoes

So what are some of the ways we practice everyday theology?

  • We ask questions: What is God like? How does God know me? Where is God when bad things happen? Asking questions keeps us searching and helps us get to know God better.
  • We listen to other people’s questions: What kind of God is this, anyway? Does God hear my prayers? We may not have answers, but we can listen and offer wisdom from our experience of God.
  • We pay attention to God’s working in the world. Maybe someone you know has overcome an addiction. You don’t need a complicated theology of grace to know that God gives people second chances. Perhaps you’ve had a breakthrough in a difficult relationship with your mom. You don’t need a doctorate in theological anthropology to see that God heals broken relationships.

Hints of God’s character and purpose are all around us. Whenever we notice these hints, we’re doing everyday theology. How can you be a better theologian this week?



shoes on ground2 TSP 182100266Grab a notebook, and sit where you can closely observe an object of God’s creation: a stone, a tree, an animal. Jot down everything you observe or wonder about the object. What color is it? Why is it a particular shape? Then write about the object from God’s perspective. Why did God make it this way? Why did God allow it to be in this particular spot at this particular moment? What can we learn about God from the way the object was created? Offer to God a prayer of thanks for revealing some of God’s character to you; and if you want, take off your shoes.

Sarah Arthur is a volunteer youth worker and the author of At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time (Paraclete Press, 2011).

—from devozine (March/April 2011). Copyright © 2011 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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