A Warning To Those Who Love Theology
In Christianity, there can be different focuses when it comes to how we express our faith and ourselves. There are those who love to serve others and be involved with helping and missions. There are those who are passionate about evangelism and/or discipleship. There are also some who love learning, studying, and theology. Most likely many are a blend of these things.
I just recently read Tim Challies’s “A Warning To Those Who Work With Words” and it immediately made me think of those of us who love and work with theology. In knowing theology well we can be quick to use it forcefully in theological discussions instead of speaking with humility and love. I love talking about theology and truly enjoy the discussion of God. Because of this, early in my marriage I would get into theological discussions with my wife resulting in the night ending poorly because I made her mad in my zeal to be right. More than once I have caused frustration or anger in a discussion with a family member or friend because I have quickly and harshly wielded my theology as a weapon rather than using it as a staff to guide and shepherd.
As a pastor and seminary graduate, I have had the privilege to do a lot of study of God and the Bible, think through a lot of issues that many didn’t even know were issues, and I’ve had the time to read a lot of books many others haven’t been afforded the opportunity to read. I know that those who are drawn to a love of theology make time for these things while others may spend their free time elsewhere. I also know that when we feel we are very learned, studied, and further along than others it can express itself in arrogance and Pharisaism rather than in grace and love.
When we use our love of theology to win arguments, back people into corners, and even make them look foolish, we are behaving in ways that are the exact opposite of the Savior we claim to know and love. In fact, we are very much acting like the people Jesus often condemned. The Pharisees were concerned with looking righteous and pious, but really did not care about the hearts of the people. When we use our knowledge to win arguments rather than to lovingly disciple people then we are guilty of not caring about people as well.
If a theological discussion comes up, instead of pulling out our proof texts and quickly shutting people down, love moves us to humbly disagree and ask people if they've ever considered the subject from a different vantage point. We may write down some verses for them to look into or point them to a book that deals with the topic from our understanding of it. We then let the discussion go and invite the person to pick it up again after they've had time to consider our point of view. We want to gently prod and not cut. We want to humbly lead and not arrogantly win.
I think the love of theology is a gift. For many of us, it starts out as a love for God and knowing God. If we aren't careful, it can quickly turn to pride and a love of knowledge and being right. This is a warning to those who love theology. Loving theology and knowing God is not a bad thing. It is wisdom for us to use that love to help others love God more and see His grandeur. It is wisdom for us to check our hearts and allow our theology to glorify the One whom it is meant to give glory to.