As I slowly read various books I plan to begin posting book reviews hoping to encourage you with, exhort you through, and expose you to the wisdom of Godly men.
Recently, I was given a copy of John M. Frame’s short booklet Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus. John M. Frame is the Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.
In his short (17 page) booklet he offers nine points of advice (including the conclusion) for “young theologians,” those just beginning to study theology. While the book is written to young and prospective seminarians is my hope that you would see the important role of theology in your own life. In its simplest form, theology is the study of God. More importantly, the theology you develop through your personal study of God is essentially the application of God’s Word to your life. I think this booklet offers solid advice to ensure that you study correctly, which should result in proper application to your life.
There are three important points that I would like to draw out of Frame’s essay. First, theology is the study God and this is a spiritual pursuit. You cannot know God or grow in your knowledge of him apart from the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. Frame states the goal of this pursuit as such: “theology, as the application of God’s Word to human life, is a spiritual task, and, as such, requires you to have a close walk with God and a willingness to do theology his way.” Your lifestyle reflects your theology if you do not live what you believe then you do not really believe it. While this is a spiritual pursuit, it will nonetheless require diligent study and much rigorous thought.
Second, theology, as the study of God, is a pursuit that results in increasing obedience and submission to Christ. Upon growing in ones mental understanding of God it naturally follows, that one will grow in obedience to God. For those of you who do not see this as a natural result consider this warning from Romans 2:4-5; “4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Our hearts must not be hardened; but by the grace of God, in Christ, we must pray that our hearts be pierced by the Word and led into deeper obedience to God. Obedience must not be a rote process devoid of emotion. Our obedience must be a passionate and joyful obedience. The Puritans called this phenomenon “logic on fire;” which means that as we grown in our knowledge of God, theology, we must grow in our passionate love for God. A proper knowledge of God results in a proper and ever increasing love of God and love for God. A proper love of God and for God cannot exist without knowledge of Him (Romans 10:1-4).
Third, the study of God must be pursued with immense humility. As stated above you cannot know or grow in you understanding of God apart from Christ (I Corinthians 1:21, 30). Because of this man cannot boast as if he discovered or found God (I Corinthians 1:28-29). As you study theology you must constantly give thanks for and boast in the unfathomably gracious God that allows you to know, study, and obey Him (I Corinthians 1:31 & Galatians 6:14).
Implied in all of this is that the study of God must be a study of the Bible. God has so graciously blessed us with the undeserved privilege of reading His words and hearing Him speak in Scripture. We must never place human experience, scientific evidence, or any other knowledge gained from general revelation above what God has self-disclosed to us in Scripture.