By: Justin Wishart
I was in bed reading a book by B.B. Warfield on Tertullian’s view of the Trinity this week. This was not easy for me to read as his book was written for trained theologians who have studied the varying views of Trinitarian theology.
For example, he has Greek and Latin sentences (and sometimes paragraphs) thrown in with the expectation that the reader knows Greek or Latin; he mentions varying theological positions, assuming that readers have good knowledge of these positions. It was like I was a high school grad walking in the middle of an in-depth conversation between two quantum physicists.
Many people would find this discouraging, and give up. I, being the sick person I am, have the opposite reaction. I find it very enjoyable, regardless of the painfully slow speed of my reading. In the middle of one of Warfield’s paragraphs (which was three pages long), I stopped to think about why I would enjoy such abuse.
What is it about theology that I would put myself through the struggles I do to learn it more deeply? I concluded that my dedication to theology had more to do with the source of the theology, rather than the theology itself. God, in His perfect wisdom and love, has revealed Himself to us and obviously wants us to know Him. And, due to my love for Him, I yearn to discover more. Theology, which means the study of God, only matters to me because of God and who He is.
So, what about God compels me to learn more and more? It is because of His beauty and grandeur; His loving-kindness and perfect justice; and His complete winsomeness and loveliness. It is God who makes theology so enjoyable. Each new discovery inspires me and lifts me up. These discoveries cause me to take my focus off me and place it rightly on the one who knit me in my mother’s womb because I can scarcely look at anything else.
Often Scripture describes God’s Word as honey, as something to be devoured and savoured. And the more I study and learn, the more I find the beautiful truth of these words:
“And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” (Ezekiel 3:1-3)
This doesn’t mean that learning about God is easy. It is at times hard and frustrating. We can expect this as it would be very suspicious if understanding everything about God was easy, or even possible. If God was easily understood by fallible humans like us then He wouldn’t be much of a god.
Theology then, is often humbling and painful – learning always is. It can be slow and cumbersome. But it is worth it because it is the image of God that slowly appears as I read Scripture, which inspires me to press on.
It is great to learn about temporal things in this life, things like science, history, or how to make great art, and to learn them well. In fact, these activities/occupations can be ways where we can express a deep form of worship towards God. That’s why I am not advocating we all quit our jobs and become full-time theologians! I myself am a mechanic by trade.
But there are some questions we should ponder here: Is there any more important knowledge than divine knowledge? Is there any knowledge which is more meaningful? Why shouldn’t I take time to learn about God, who made everything including me?
I then wondered why many Christians have a reluctance to engage in theology. Yes, it is hard, particularly when you first start. Possibly some are discouraged that others are more gifted at it through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, while others have made their lives too busy to take the necessary time to study. Whatever the reason it is a shame, at least from my perspective. This is because of the joy that I receive from learning and growing in my knowledge of God. And more importantly, if God made us to learn, then we are glorifying God by spending time learning about Him.
This all ran through my mind as I paused from my reading this night. I then began to read where I left off but could not continue as I had lost the paragraph’s train of thought. I had to go back a page and a half to the beginning and start again…