On Theology

Recently I sat in a church classroom and listened to a seminary-trained pastor strongly imply that learning theology makes people proud Pharisees, while people who know little to nothing about theology are closer to an “authentic” relationship with God. They may sound wrong, and do things wrong, and hold wrong beliefs, but at least they are not full of pride.

I thought my head was going to explode.

I do think that people can be Christians without having done any study of theology. That’s where many people start their walk with Jesus. However, I don’t think that is the proper place for people to end their walk with Jesus (unless the beginning and end are really close together). Here are three arguments people make against learning theology and why I don’t believe they are valid. I am also including a list of books that I have found to be greatly helpful at the end of the post.

1. Theology is unnecessary to know Jesus

Maybe it is unnecessary to have studied theology to become a Christian, as I said above. The longer you are a Christian, though, the more you should know about the God you worship. Many different versions of Jesus are being preached today—the Jesus of orthodox Christianity, the Jesus of the prosperity gospel, the Jesus of liberal theology, etc. How do you know which one (or ones) is/are right? How do you know what Jesus was and is really like? Further, how do you know what Jesus wants?

2. Theology is divisive

Yes, it can be—and necessarily so. A Christian should not be in fellowship with false teachers (Ro. 16:17). Many people try to make a church split over theology sound as stupid as a church split over what color the carpet should be, but that simply shows how little value they place on knowing what God has told us. Theology does not always divide, and mature Christians should be able to work and worship alongside other Christians who hold valid theological positions different from their own. However, we should be able to recognize and root-out heresy within our ranks.

3. Theology makes you proud

I will concede that theology can make you proud. So can not knowing theology. I’ve heard pastors who are proud of the fact that they have no formal theological training; I’ve heard laymen who are full of pride because they have never let someone else teach them about God. I will also argue that a good understanding of theology shouldn’t make you proud. Indeed, as you study who you are and what God has done through His Son more and more deeply, you will have less cause for pride—not more.

Pastors, teach theology—even the deep stuff. Teach it in your sermons. Teach it in your Bible studies. Make sure your church’s other teachers know enough to teach theology in their Bible studies, small groups, and Sunday school classes. Strive to pastor a church full of mature Christians who know what they believe.

Christians, learn theology. The Bible is the best teacher of theology, so start with dedicated Bible reading. Read the whole book, not just the sections you like. After that, get a good book about theology, either general or on a specific topic, and read it. Then read another. Learn to take the good and leave the bad. Most importantly, let your learning drive you to your knees before God in worship and adoration.

Books I have enjoyed:

  • Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
  • Why We’re Not Emergent – Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck (I know the Emergent Church thing is kind of over, but the information in this book is still really relevant and interesting)
  • Raised with Christ – Adrian Warnock
  • Scandalous – D. A. Carson
  • The God Who is There – D. A. Carson
  • Redemption – Mike Wilkerson
  • Systematic Theology – Wayne Grudem
  • The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus – Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
  • The Work of Christ – R. C. Sproul
  • By Grace Alone – Sinclair Ferguson

Originally posted at The Anon Church blog. Reposted here in its entirety.

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