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.