Ben Reaoch | Category: Theology for Life; Baptist Institute of Pittsburgh
The Baptist Institue of Pittsburgh has announced its spring course and the related book list, so we are pulling this article from the blog archives as a way to prepare for (or persuade you to join in) the upcoming theological studies.
Studying Christian doctrine needs to be done in the right way. If one pursues theological knowledge in the wrong ways, it can be destructive and deadly. If one pursues theological knowledge in the right ways, it will be life-giving and will make the person a tremendous blessing to others.
Think of a Sophomore in college. I choose sophomore for this illustration intentionally, because it means a “wise fool.” Think of a sophomore who is taking philosophy classes and literature classes and political science classes, and he’s doing pretty well in them. He has a knack for picking up these concepts and analyzing them. And he likes to sit around in the evenings with classmates and talk about the different views that have been presented. He enjoys discussing and debating the strengths and weaknesses of those different views. He is interested in the subjects themselves, but what really gets him excited is being able to look smart in front of others when he can defend his own position and make the opposing views look stupid.
Now picture another sophomore in college, or maybe even the same guy, and he’s head-over-heels in love with a young lady. He really wants to marry her. He wants to hang out with her as much as possible. He wants to make her happy. He wants to know her better. Even when his friends say things like, “Wow, she really has you wrapped around her finger,” he just smiles. He is so happy when he’s with her, and he has an insatiable desire to learn more and more about this fascinating young woman. He wants to know what makes her tick. He rehearses in his mind the kinds of things she likes and the things she doesn’t like. He goes to sleep at night thinking of the conversations they’ve had and looking forward to future conversations.
This may seem like an odd illustration, but I think it can give us some concrete ideas about the right and wrong ways to pursue theological knowledge. We should study theology the way that young man studies his girlfriend, not the way he studies philosophy. When we speak of “theology” we should remind ourselves that we’re talking about God and what it means to have a relationship with Him. These are not just abstract concepts. And we’re not just comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various systems of thought. We are studying God (that’s what theology means). We are studying who He is and what it means to know Him personally. So if your theological study is mainly about trying to sound smart in front of your friends, it is absolutely worthless.
Instead, read your Bible and read theological books as one who deeply loves the Almighty Triune God of the universe.
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