Everyone has theology.
Theology, in its most basic form, is simply how we think about God. Our perception of God has a dramatic effect on how we perceive ourselves and on our view of mankind in general. As a result, our theology affects how we live our lives and how we treat other people. Even atheists have a theology. Their's is just very short. It drives me crazy when Christians pooh-pooh theology. "We don't need theology," they say, "we just obey God." What nonsense. The very fact that they used the word "God" implies that they have a fairly developed theology. When asked (and sometimes when not asked) these same folks will tell us in great detail about their God and about their God's orientation towards mankind and about their own relationship with their God. In other words, they will describe their theology.
Everyone has theology. The real issue is whether or not they have given their theology much thought. This brings us to the more refined sense of the word "theology": the study
of God. Theology in this sense implies a certain degree of intentionality and intellectual rigor, which may scale anywhere from simply reading a C.S. Lewis book (or, God forbid, "Left Behind) to devoting one's entire life to in-depth theological academic pursuit. Of course, in any endeavor one can get lost in the details and lose sight of the big picture. One thinks of the theologians in Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" who hold a convocation to discuss the matter of whether or not Christ owned the tunic that He wore (and end up in a fractious debate about it).
Conversely, there is the story of the great Swiss-German theologian Karl Barth who, towards the end of his life gave a lecture at the University of Chicago Divinity School. At the end of the lecture, Barth was asked by the president of the seminary the following question: “Of all the theological insights you have ever had, which do you consider to be the greatest of them all?” After a moments thought, Barth replied "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” He hadn't lost sight of the big picture.
Still, theology matters. Let me give you an examply of why. Let's say part of my theology is the belief that Hell is a place of eternal conscious torment. Further, let's say that my theology maintains that all people are, by default, bound for Hell unless they subscribe to a particular set of doctrines. Someone who teaches contrary to this particular set of doctrines is, therefore, responsible for causing people to go to Hell and be tormented for eternity. It suddenly becomes fairly easy to justify imprisoning, torturing and executing teachers who "mislead" people by propigating "false doctrines". After all, isn't it better to burn a few heretics than to allow them to lead multitudes into the fires of Hell? Likewise, if we force people--under threat of violence--to accept our doctrines and, therefore, avoid Hell, they'll eventually thank us for it. Right?
History is filled with examples like this. They are the tangible and tragic results of bad theology.
On the other hand, if my theology includes the belief that God loves His creation and values every single person, will that not also profoundly affect how I look at the world and treat people?
Socrates, when he was put on trial for heresy by the Athenians, famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Along similar lines, I would say, an unexamined theology is not worth having; and it may actually do more harm than good.