Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The value of a theology degree

My friend Lynn's comment on my previous post brought to mind something that's been bugging me for a while...

I am the recipient of some truly rare blessings. As an American, I have both access and the means to purchase more resources to help me along my Christian journey than most people in the Global South are even aware exists. In fact, as an unrepentant bibliophile, I have purchased and read a few hundred books and thousands of magazine articles explaining various aspects of Christian living and thinking. I own at least 7 different translations of the Bible (from KJV to Amplified) and have read through the entire Bible multiple times (and some books, dozens of times). In over 30 years as a believer, I have heard a few thousand sermons between church, the radio, chapel services, and the Internet, and have delivered a few dozen more. I graduated from a top-tier Christian liberal arts college and possess a Th.M. in Systematic Theology from one of the world's most prestigious evangelical seminaries. And on top of all that, I have been blessed by God with an above average memory so that I can retain a larger than average amount of the information I take in, even years later. All of this has helped me immeasurably in my ministry and in my ability to know God's will for my life.

And yet, despite all of these spectacular blessings, I think that very often I obey God less well than many Christians with far less information. In fact, knowing the right answer doesn't necessarily make me any more likely to obey God, it only makes me more cognizant of how far short I fall of fully following Christ. To say it another way, the struggles I have in my Christian life aren't primarily informational, so much as they are transformational. It simply isn't a lack of information that's the problem; it's a lack of submission to Jesus. There's no "magic" Christian book or sermon or "new teaching" out there, just waiting to be discovered, that will miraculously enable me to be "a man after God's own heart." Instead, I possess something better: the indwelling Holy Spirit who, if I will submit my will to His, enables me to turn knowledge into experience and thereby change me from the inside out.
Lord, help me to submit to the Holy Spirit you have given to me, your child. Help me to not only be a hearer of your Word, but an effectual doer. Amen.

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