Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Failing to See Theology as a Spiritual Task

Theologian John Frame has written an essay called "Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus," in which he lays out some advice that young theologians would do well to heed (ht). One caution he gives relates to the danger of condescension and a lack of humilty among students fresh out of Seminary or after a period of theological training. He writes,

Such students lack the perspective of seeing theology as a spiritual task. Theology is application. If it doesn’t edify, it is worthless. It is not information for information’s sake. It should never be a vehicle of intellectual pride.

“Simple believers” often know God better than many learned theologians. Many who lack formal theological training are better elders and deacons than any young seminarian could be. They may know less about academic theology than the young seminarian, but they may well know more of what’s important, in greater depth and perspective, and better how to apply it to life. If the young seminarian wishes to rebuke such an elder, he should take 1 Tim. 5:1 to heart. More likely he should not rebuke at all until he learns something of the gentleness and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But even more important, the young seminarian should be humble enough to learn from those who have walked with Christ for many years, who have matured through fighting the spiritual warfare. This kind of learning can be just as important as classroom learning in preparing a young theologian for ministry.

All of this is an exhortation to students to recognize your own immaturity, how much you don’t know, how much you need to grow. You might deceive yourself about this, partly because at seminary you are learning so much technical stuff of which the simple believers are ignorant. Being able to read Hebrew and Greek, and to speak of covenants and supralapsarianism and the rest might lead you to think (quite wrongly) that you know God better than the simple believers.

The young theologian, for all his necessary immersion in technical theology, may well need to know God much better than he does, before he seeks to edify his fathers and mothers in the Lord.

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