How to start being a good theologian
One of the reasons I hear people say that they are not theologians is that they do not have time to be a theologian. They do not know enough about the Bible. And that is a true statement as far as that goes. But it misses the bigger issues of life…and not just whether you are a theologian or not.
One of my favorite episodes of Little house of the Prairie is one of the early ones. There is a blizzard coming in and Pa Engle ties a rope from the house to the barn. I can remember the first time I watched it all those years ago, “Why is he doing that? It just seems silly.” But I had watched enough TV to know that the plot would unfold soon enough.
As the blizzard rolled in, Pa Engle gets caught out in the barn. It is dark, the snow is coming down so hard that he cannot see the house. It is the rope that is tied from the barn to the house that saves his life. I think this a wonderful picture of our lives today.
Many of us have lost our way spiritually. We are in a blizzard of doing to many things. Or we are in a blizzard of being anxious about the uncontrollable nature of life. Some of us multi-task so much that we do not even know we are multi-tasking. We are over-scheduled, tense addicted to hurry, frantic, preoccupied, and starved for time.
The quarantine has brought this to the surface for a lot of people. Having their busy schedules disrupted, and now having free time – not being able to go places or keep adding more activities—they suddenly have found they were addicted to doing.
Christians are no different. They listen to sermons and read book. But they have no impact on their daily life. We read passages like “ Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30, ESV) But we have never experienced that at a real-life giving level.
We teach new Christians to have devotions and quiet time. Normally this consists of a few moments each day of reading the Bible, praying, perhaps reading from some devotional book. Along with going to church on Sunday and maybe being involved with a small group, we hope that will be enough to get them out of the blizzard of their lives. IT WON’T BE ENOUGH!
Over the next few posts, I am going to outline ways and reasons why every Christian should be growing spiritually and theologically. But I want to start with something that is so simple you may dismiss it out of hand. But is a simple little phrase “Practicing the Presence of God.”
That exact phrase is never used in Scripture but is a deeply scriptural idea. At the core it means to discern or develop habits of discerning the awareness of God. Look at these familiar passages of Scripture
♦ Abide (John 15:4–5)
♦ Love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37–40)
♦ Set your mind (Romans 8:5–6)
♦ Walk by/keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25)
♦ Set your heart (Colossians 3:1–2)
♦ Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
♦ Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
♦ Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
♦ Run with endurance/perseverance (Hebrews 12:1–2)
♦ Submit/offer yourself up (Romans 12:1–2)
♦ Press on (Philippians 3:12–14)
♦ Dwell on (Philippians 4:6–8)
♦ Remember God’s faithfulness and provision (Deuteronomy 8:2–3)
Notice that all of those require some sort of action. That is where the word “practicing” comes in. The key truth is that all of life can be lived in the presence f God. Nothing is to ordinary or mundane. But as those verses show us (and our lives re-enforce to us) practicing the presence of God does not happen automatically. It takes trust. It takes time. It takes training.
Being a good theologian (or Christian for that matter) is not about knowing Greek or Hebrew or knowing who Gregory the Great is. Those things are good to know, and well worth knowing. But the start and end of all theological reflection, its purpose, and its aim is to know God.
Start there and you are on your way to becoming a great theologian.
This phrase is not original to me. It was coined by a monk named Brother Laurence in the 17th century. His book is available in Logos Bible Software https://www.logos.com/product/7994/the-practice-of-the-presence-of-god. It is also available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Practice-Presence-God-Brother-Lawrence/dp/1614279683