As the late RC Sproul said, “Every Christian is a theologian. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones.”
This quote rightly states that all believers are theologians to some extent, as every believer has ideas about God. CS Lewis put it like this: “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones.”
It is our responsibility to be working towards developing good theology. But we must be intentional in doing so. If we’re not careful, we can develop bad theology instead.
Here are a few ways that can happen:
Ignore Difficult Bible Passages
The best way to develop bad theology is to skip over passages that are confusing or challenge your understanding.
Rather than passing over a challenging verse, we should compare it to other verses, consult commentaries, and keep digging deeper. When reading Scripture it is important to remember that not a single verse was included by accident.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
If you want to be taught, reproved, corrected, trained for righteousness, made complete, and equipped for every good work you must not fall into the habit of skipping over hard passages.
“Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”- AW Tozer
Only Read Authors that Agree with You
Avoid reading or listening to those who do not fully subscribe to your exact theological viewpoint and you’ll be unlikely to grow beyond your current level of spiritual maturity.
We can all benefit by considering the theological viewpoints of others. If nothing else, our own beliefs will be strengthened by weighing the views of another. This doesn’t mean that we should submerge ourselves in flawed theology for the sake of being open-minded.
It does mean that we should acknowledge that there are a variety of view points represented in the Christian faith. Be humble enough to recognize that you may be mistaken on certain issues. Even our favorite pastors and teachers are not likely to be correct in every facet of theology.
If we allow ourselves to explore other viewpoints we will do one of two things:
1) Strengthen our own positions by finding that alternative ideas lack Biblical support.
2) If appropriate, we will better conform our understanding to the truth of Scripture.
Either way, we will be better theologians by examining other views. Wondering where to start? There is a series of books focused on giving counter-perspectives on a number of important theological issues that may be helpful:
Understanding Four Views on Baptism
Two Views on Women in Ministry
Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper
Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond
Four Views on Hell: Second Edition
Compromise to Avoid Confrontation
Another theological error many make is to abandon essential truths just to avoid confrontation with others.
Those who are quick to alter their beliefs and convictions to accommodate the shifting opinions of the world are unlikely to develop good theology.
There are an unfortunate number of examples of believers abandoning or downplaying truth to satisfy those around them. Areas of creation, sin, and the exclusivity of Christ are often disregarded to avoid offending others with truth.
Our confidence in the essential truths of our faith allows us to stand firm in upholding them, even in difficult situations.
Only Read Books About The Bible And Not The Bible Itself
We can easily fall into the habbit of reading about the Bible and failing to spend time reading the Bible itself. Doing so leaves us theologically imbalanced, especially if we commit the previous error of avoiding those we disagree with.
As Ravi Zacharias has pointed out, “What we need is not a religion that is right where we are right, but one that is right where we are wrong.”
That’s where Scripture comes in. By reading God’s Word we get a healthy diet of that which we understand and that which challenges us both theologically and spiritually. Only by reading the Bible can we encounter areas where we need to change our beliefs or practices.
Additionally, Scripture clearly reveals that our theology must result in doxology, or worship. The goal of developing as theologians is not simply to know more about God, but to love Him more deeply and follow Christ more closely.
Every Christian is a theologian. The question is not whether we have an understanding of God, but if we have a correct understanding of Him.
We should be striving to have a more complete understanding of God and seek spiritual growth.
Avoiding the errors above can help us develop good theology.
A lovely read. Very true.
As a minister in the old Christian faith of the Bible, here in Gloucester, England, these points I have to remind myself and my flock, weekly.