Jul 29, 2011

Why Theology is Necessary

Deuteronomy 6:4–9

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:4–6).

Having considered the importance of growing in our knowledge of the Word of God in order that we might attain spiritual maturity, we begin today’s study by distinguishing the necessity of knowledge from the sufficiency of knowledge in spiritual growth. It is impossible to know how to please God without an adequate and developing understanding of Scripture. Therefore, knowing biblical doctrine is required for maturing in the faith — it is necessary for true spiritual adulthood. At the same time, we must always remember that mere knowledge is insufficient for spiritual maturity. Satan, after all, has an intellectual knowledge of God and His Word (Matt. 4:1–11; James 2:19), but he is anything but spiritually mature. More than just a mental grasp of the content of biblical theology is needed, for spiritual maturity only comes as we receive the Word in our hearts and allow it to transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can give us the willingness and the ability to respond to divine revelation in this manner (John 3:1–14).

Still, because spiritual maturity requires theological study, there can be no growth without it. Consequently, no believer can bifurcate absolutely the work of the professional theologian from the task of the layperson. Of course, a place exists for scholars who devote their lives to exploring the intricacies of theological distinctions, answering intellectual challenges to the faith, and developing helpful summaries of biblical doctrine for the edification of the church. Nevertheless, every Christian is a theologian, for every believer thinks about the nature of God, the way of salvation, and similar topics, formulating theories about how the Lord works in the world even if they do so informally. We could actually say that every human being is a theologian, for every person ponders such matters, even if they consider God only in order to deny Him. It is impossible to go an entire lifetime without coming to some kind of idea about God, for we cannot ignore the reality of His divine attributes in creation (Rom. 1:18).

Therefore, the real question is not whether or not we are going to be theologians but whether or not we are going to be sound theologians. The goal for every Christian should be obvious: to become a sound, biblical theologian who develops an understanding of doctrine that submits finally to the authority of God’s Word even as it looks to the church’s historical understanding of Scripture for guidance.

Coram Deo

The passage chosen as the basis for today’s study calls the people of God tostudy His law diligently and, by extension, everything that He has revealedin the Bible. We are to examine Scripture systematically, looking at how allof its teachings on any given subject fit together coherently. We are also tostudy the Bible corporately, seeking to learn from other Christians, both pastand present, who have been given special insight into God’s Word.

For Further Study