The Making of a ‘Theologian’: Twelve Ways to Grow in Grace and Knowledge of the Lord

lutherA few weeks ago I wrote a blogpost, “Theology is not Just for Theologians.” This week Edmond Sanganyado ran a post (“Becoming a Better Theologian“) on the same subject, where he queried more than twenty theologians on how to grow in knowing and loving God (i.e., theology). He received responses from Jonathan Leeman, Kevin Vanhoozer,  Tim Challies, to name a few. He also included a few thoughts I shared.

I’ve developed those reflections further below, and laid out twelve aspects to growing as a ‘theologian’ (i.e., one who thinks about God). These are addressed to individuals in the church but could easily be adapted by pastors to encourage his congregation to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), which is the aim of spiritually-enriching theology.

Twelve Ways to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of the Lord

1. Delight Yourself in the Lord. 

Good theology begins with a soul satisfaction in the Lord. This includes conversion, but goes further. Because understanding is enhanced or hindered by our loves, the first thing a good theologian must do is love God in and through the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) is not just a command for decision-making, it is also necessary for doctrine-making.

Often heresy and errant theology (which are not exactly the same) are produced by men who are embittered towards God or trying to win the approval of others. In other words, because biography shapes theology (as in the case of Friedrich Schleiermacher), it is possible for bad theology to crop up from some misunderstood crisis in life. At the same time, good theology is sweetened by the grace given in times of suffering. Martin Luther said suffering was essential for making a theologian. A good theologian, by implication, must think rightly about God in trying times. And thus he or she must begin with delighting in the Lord. Continue reading