I love to talk about theology, but I’m not very good at talking about theology.
If you ask me a question concerning Christian thought, two things will likely happen. First, unfortunately, I’ll feel a sense of pride. I enjoy serving people, especially through writing and teaching, but my desire to serve can easily become an opportunity to internally boast in any knowledge I’ve gained. My ego loves for people to ask me my opinion on theological points or to pose difficult questions to me. I’ll think of myself as an authority, an expert even, and I’ll cherish those delusions if I’m not careful. I don’t like that admission, but I can’t let such things grow.
Second, I’ll start to ramble. I’ve spent enough time studying Scripture and theology to know a little bit of information about a lot of things, making me dangerous. I’ll quickly share what I know (or what I think I know) before sharing anything and everything else that seems even remotely relevant to the original question. The result becomes less a direct answer to your question and more a disconnected string of thoughts loosely tied together by an initial inquiry. Often, after a few minutes of rambling, I’ll realize that I don’t really know theology like I think I do, and, more importantly, I’ll realize that I don’t really know God like I think I do.
Pride can be a funny thing. When someone first asks me a question, my pride will inflate my ego, telling me that I’ve studied enough to speak boldly on any subject. As I begin to pour forth speech, however, I quickly discover how little I actually understand. Pride will then turn on me, shaming me for my ignorance, asking me what I’ve been doing all these years at school if I can’t even answer a few questions about my faith. I then feel conviction as I recognize I’ve allowed pride a place in my life it ought never to possess. I realize that I sound more like Job’s friends than like Job, more like the Pharisees than like Paul, more like the chief priest than like Christ.
The author of Proverbs writes,
The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
God gives grace in my conviction and shame by reminding me of my place before him. In truth, I will never fully understand the ways of God, nor should I expect to do so (Isaiah 55:8-9). I may study the things of God for the rest of my life, and still I will never arrive at a mastery of theology or of Scripture. To borrow the verbiage of men far wiser and smarter than I, our finite minds can apprehend but cannot comprehend infinity. Such truth, if understood, should make me fear, and such fear should make me humble. I would do well to “let [my] words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2), to “be quick to hear” and “slow to speak” (James 1:19). In my recognition of ignorance, God reminds me of his greatness and glory. Though fallen and arrogant, I rest forgiven and accepted. In my weakness, I see afresh his strength and beauty.
I pray I will be a help to you. I want you to ask me questions that make me think, and I want to walk with you along the road to deeper knowledge of God and to deeper love of him. But I want to do these things in wisdom and in humility, remembering always my place before the Almighty and speaking only in fear and trembling at the weight of the eternal subject of my words. May you leave every encounter with me more in love with God, more in awe of our Lord, and may I be forgotten quickly. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).