THOMAS: It’s possible to make an idol of anything, including your perceived knowledge of doctrine. The issue here is the way in which doctrine impacts the whole of our being, both head and heart.
There are Christians who are all head. They’re cerebral. They know stuff and they like to argue stuff. They like to win apologetic battles and epistemological battles, but there’s no heart. There’s no life of prayer. There’s no repentance. There’s no confession of sin. There’s no pleading with God.
B.B. Warfield, at the inception of Princeton Seminary, wrote about the importance of maintaining good and regular church practice while in seminary in The Religious Life of Theological Students. It is a wonderful little pamphlet that should be required reading for anybody in seminary. Being in seminary doesn’t mean that church is optional. You need to be a regular member of the church and participant in the community of the church, sitting under the Word of God.
It is also important to maintain devotional practices and habits, such as daily prayer, daily confession of sin, and being accountable to others. Paul warns that you can be puffed up with knowledge. It’s one of the warnings Paul gives to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 8:1). Seminary students are very easily puffed up with knowledge. We need to prick that balloon of pride by coming before the Lord in penitence and devotion on a regular, habitual basis.
SPROUL: I would add that if you have a theology that’s idolatrous and puffs up, then you need to do more work in theology because you have a very superficial understanding of the things of God. Some people will say, “I don’t want to study theology because it’s just going to be an idol and puff me up.” We want to have true knowledge. We also want to have true faith and everything that you just said, but there’s a vacuum somewhere in a theology that produces idolatry.