Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Don't Know Much About Theology

Many of us are not only aware that we need to keep progressing in our knowledge of Scripture, but also sincerely desire to.

One way of doing this is to take an online Bible class, or even earn a Bible certificate or degree. I’ve been going back and forth on this very thing, one day thinking formal Bible training is essential and the next thinking it’s not. Maybe you’re experiencing the same.

But a question from my 7-year-old lunch buddy brought my indecision on the matter to a halt. Last week, as we were constructing a pretty sweet skate park with Legos, my lunch buddy asked, “How did God create the earth if he’s dead?”

I was caught completely off guard and unprepared and didn’t know what to say! The Trinity came to mind, but I wasn't going to try to explain that in the ten minutes we had left. I managed to eke out an answer, which seemed to satisfy him--but not me!

Fast forward to this week where I spent yet another afternoon revisiting some of the same online Christian learning websites I’ve been on before, trying to pin down the program best suited for me. The difference this time is that I had my lunch buddy to keep in mind as I examined course offerings.

I want what I learn to benefit people like my lunch buddy, as well as myself. Which means the program can’t be too theological, philosophical or abstract, nor too superficial. It can’t get bogged down in the intricacies of hermeneutics and exegesis (I still don’t understand these terms but there’s lots of college credit hours devoted to them)! Some people love nothing more than to debate Calvinism and Arminianism, while others get into theology merely as a form of pop psychology or so they can conform Jesus to the culture (as opposed to conforming the culture to Jesus). It’s amazing how many courses there are that do all of the above and more!

The point is, since all of us are exhorted to continue with the renewing of our mind, we most likely want to do that while at the same time apply what we learn on a day-to-day basis. I’m not interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, like I was 30 years ago. It would be nice to be able to use what I learn in the 40 or so years I have left (Lord willing)!

In short, what most of us, I believe, could benefit from and would most enjoy is a course of study that teaches a right handling of Scripture by going deep enough into history, context, interpretation, and the like while not losing the essentials of the faith or the point of the essentials.

As I told my son recently, after he shared what he’s learning in his college theology class, “I don’t know much about Eastern Orthodoxy or heterodoxy or even neo-orthodoxy, but I do know this: I was in bondage, in a dark place, and now I’m free, through Jesus Christ--the one and only Way.” The minute a seminary, church, Christian college or any of us ever forgets that--the minute we lose sight of that--all the Biblical knowledge in the world won’t make much difference.

I hope to get back to my lunch buddy with a sound Biblical answer to his question. I know now what I need to do.

“Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.” Psalm 119:66

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18

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