Let me begin this post by sharing a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. We were discussing what we were learning at our churches. When I brought up a particular doctrinal issue my pastor had mentioned in his message, my friend (who attended another good church in our town) said to me that she studies the Bible only for its practical application and avoids getting involved in discussions of the deep things of the Word of God. She was the first person to put in words to me what I have come to understand as a widespread issue in conservative Christianity—“Don’t talk to me about doctrine and theology—just teach me some practical things that will help me in my daily life. Doctrine and theology are complicated issues that should be reserved for pastors and aspiring seminary students. But don’t bog the common man or woman in the church pew down with those types of things—that will just weigh them down and distract them from the important issues of life with which they are dealing. “
I think there is a very real reason that many people feel this way. Of course, some people just don’t want to know God. They just want an easy answer to what ails them. But there is another reason that really bothers me—a lot of theologians are full of pride in their knowledge. They love their Latin phrases and flaunt the depth of their religious library. And when you try to talk to them or even just sit in their class or read their papers, they talk right over the average guy’s head. They talk over him instead of to him. They intimidate him (or her) and scare him/her off from their own theological adventure.
But biblically, there is no justification for pastors and seminary professors to be the only ones who understand, articulate, and appreciate doctrine and theology. For our purposes, let me be clear what I mean by each of these terms.
Doctrine: simply, a teaching—in this case, the teaching of Scripture
Theology: the study of the character, attributes, and purposes of God
Here is the passage that really gets me on this issue.
Proverbs 9: 10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Most church attendees admit that they need wisdom. Many come to church each Sunday hoping for something they can apply to their lives that week to be a wiser parent or spouse, employer or employee. Proverbs 9:10 holds the answer. The Bible says over and over again (Job 28:28, Ps. 11:10, Prov. 15:33) that wisdom—practical daily living—is preceded by the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of the Holy One.
In other words, wise, practical daily living is preceded by a knowledge of God that leads to fear, awe, and reverence of Him, His power, and His purposes. Theology is the root, the foundation, the framework for practical living that reflects wisdom and understanding.