Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So you think theology is for pastors?

(warning: ranting ahead)

Imagine for a moment a school.  Now narrow down this picture to one specific class.  Now visualize the teacher.  Imagine that this teacher has studied very carefully for several years to be qualified to teach this class.  It's Monday morning and the teacher gets up to present the first lesson for the week.  The students halfheartedly take notes and attempt to look a little interested, but for the most part they do not understand the concepts and have no real desire to know any material that isn't going to be on the next test.  The lesson is over now, and as much as the teacher has tried to make it interesting, none of the students are taking anything with them as they leave for their next class.  But wait, you may think.  That's what the homework is for, right?  The homework is to help the students personalize these concepts and be able to complete these tasks on their own without a teacher walking them through the process each time.  But you see, this teacher is very kind and understanding.  This teacher realizes that the students really don't need to understand these concepts in real life.  They only need a passing grade in the class.  So, this kind and understanding teacher goes home each night and in addition to studying the material for the next lecture, the teacher also does all the assigned homework for each student individually.  After all, it is not the students who need to bother themselves with learning new concepts or internalizing these ideas.  They absorb enough material in the class lectures each day to fill their requirements.  The students come to class haphazardly since they will never be tested on any of the lecture material.  It's really a personal matter whether or not the students are learning anything.  The teacher wouldn't dare to question a student in front of anyone else.  It is enough for the teacher to know the material and the students to sit patiently each class period and listen.  Surely this is a successful class.

Reading this has probably left you wondering what kind of school this is.  I will tell you.  This school is run like many churches are today.  Somewhere along the history of the church we have decided that knowing God should be relegated to the pastor.  We have churches full of congregations with the pastor doing the homework for them.  They sit politely through the sermon each week, and pretend to like preaching, but the reality is that most American Christians have little to no understanding of the very God they claim to worship.  We need pastors that will preach the Word, not their own words.  We need Christians who will hold their pastors accountable to the Bible.  We need everyday Christians who are willing to spend time actually studying their Bible individually and not just accept what they are told at church.  It takes a lot more work to spend time reading passages of Scripture and meditating on them than to pick and choose verses at random and quote them at the top of your lungs.

One of the most common reactions I can think of is the classic "Theology is dry and boring."  Really?  Theology is the study of God, so excuse me for being blunt, but let's face the truth--if studying God is boring to you, what on earth makes you think you're a Christian?  You prayed a prayer when you were 4? You made a "decision" at a revival meeting or a camp chapel?  You felt bad for doing bad things? You were scared of going to hell?  You were pressured by well-meaning adults in junior church?  No really, what makes you think you're a Christian?  If you don't want to know God, then what Scriptural basis can you give for your faith?  If you are a true child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ, then getting to know the Creator of the Universe will not be a burden for you.  Studying the Word and delving into the deep things of God will not be tedious and dull.  If you do find that deep down you really don't have any desire to know God beyond the superficial sound bites, then I would seriously re-evaluate your "Christianity" because a child of God will have a hunger for God.

It is ridiculous that the one most important aspect of our lives is treated so carelessly.  We are careful about everything else.  We go to ridiculous lengths to regulate what our children are taught in schools and how they are taught.  We want to know what the belief system of each political candidate is down to the details.  We want to know that our banks are holding our money with integrity.  We want to know the health risks of any kind of food we put in our bodies.  We want to know that our cars are repaired by people who know their business and do honest work.  We run our businesses with our eyes and ears open.  We think so carefully about so much of the rest of our lives, it is absolutely ridiculous that we leave our precious faith open to whoever comes up with 3 catchy alliterated points and a quote from a celebrity.  We would not run a business that way, we would not conduct our parenting that way, we would not maintain our family vehicles or health or insurance policies that way.  Yet we treat our faith as something that isn't really all that important.  We are like freshmen in high school algebra class.  We cannot wait to let our "teacher" do all our "homework" for us because "we're never going to use this in real life..."  A school full of well-educated teachers and poorly-educated students is no school at all.

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