Everyone is a Theologian-Pt. 2

In the previous post, I touched briefly on the relationship between right knowledge—or, to put it another way: good theology—with the right kind of life. In fact, the Bible constantly links understanding what is true about God, about you and I as God’s creatures, and about the world that God has made with living in a way that pleases God, is a blessing to others, and allows us to experience joy and satisfaction. Let me give you two more examples we find in the New Testament that underscore this basic point. Both of them are found in letters written by the apostle Paul. The first one is found in Philippians 1:9-11:

9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

And then in Ephesians 1:16-18, Paul writes the following:

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.

Knowledge and wisdom and discernment—these are thing things that Paul links with a life that pleases God and is full of hope and satisfaction.

Now, I should quickly add that living in a way that pleases God involves more than just growing in the right knowledge. There certainly is a heart element (which Paul actually mentions in the passage directly above). But while a God pleasing life involves more than growing in the proper beliefs—the proper theology—it certainly doesn’t involve less.

And that means, not just pastors and teachers, but all Christians—accountants, nurses, students, contractors, stay-at-home moms, artists, college professors, farmers, doctors, salesmen, etc.—are called to be theologians…maybe not to the same degree, but to some degree. In other words, every one of us is called to study and consider the truth about God and how it applies to our lives.

But having said all that, you might be thinking, “But I’m no theologian. I just don’t know that much about God’s truth.”

And that leads me to the point that I really want us to understand. The fact of the matter is you’re already a theologian. You already have beliefs about things like God’s character and his purposes and plans. You have beliefs about human nature and about how we’re supposed to act toward one another. You have beliefs about how we’re supposed to treat our material possessions, and deal with adversity, and raise our kids. You have beliefs about all of those things. Of course, you may be getting them from all kinds of different places: your friends and family, movies, talk radio, books, Oprah, etc. But rest assured, you have them. And that means–whether you realize it or not—you’re already doing theology. You’re a theologian.

So it isn’t a question of whether or not you’re a theologian. It’s whether or not you’re a good one—whether or not your beliefs match up with what is actually true and, as a result, help lead to the kind of life that is glorifying to God and satisfying to you.

If that’s the case, how do you and I develop better theology? Obviously, it doesn’t just magically happen. Rather, good theology is the result of properly understanding God’s word—the revelation of his truth that he’s given to us. Consequently, we need to be engaging biblical truth on a consistent basis.

Fortunately, there are several different ways to do that. One is listening to good teaching on Sunday mornings—and like Dave and Keith have mentioned these last two weeks, getting off the escalator and actively trying to understand what we’re being taught. Group bible studies are also wonderful ways to learn. But just as crucial is consistently taking time to read the Scriptures yourself. It’s a simple fact that it’s going to be difficult to understand and apply God’s word if you remain largely unfamiliar with what it says. And it’s much too long of a row to hoe if you leave it to Sunday mornings and the occasional group study. One final suggestion is to read good books—books by trustworthy men and women who are bit further down the path and can teach you what they’ve learned about biblical truth. As summer approaches and many group studies are winding down, this is an excellent way to keep positive momentum in regard to growing in the proper knowledge.

Having said all of that, let me mention two final things. First, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The key is not so much where you’re at now as where you’ll be in the next year, five years, etc. The idea is to continue to grow in good theology. Secondly, as with anything, none of this will happen without the grace of God (here’s where the heart issue comes in again). We need that grace to give us the desire for his truth, the perseverance to pursue it, and the capacity to understand and apply it. For that reason, it’s no surprise that the passages we looked at earlier from Paul are both prayers, prayers for God to grow his readers’ understanding of the truth. It only makes sense, then, that we should regularly make those prayers our own.

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