Should lay people study theology?

June 17, 2014

It is obviously a loaded question. What am I going to say? Heck, no! Why bother? It all turns out the same one way or the other. (By the way, that is a better argument than you may think!) If you come down the line of Anglicanism or some other liturgy-heavy form of worship, you have been confirmed (usually around age 12) and that is the PhD of religious studies for regular folks. Study is a load of work and, if you are not careful, it might change your mind. If could change your life. If things are going well, that is the very last thing you might desire.

In Matt 25, the Lord describes the Last Judgment and the process of handing out final grades. There is not the first hint of academic achievement but plenty about taking care of the least among us. So there! Case closed! No more Christian Education (and most of us hated it anyway!).

But how are we to know in advance of the Last Day? What source tells us that kindness towards the sufferers is one of the final manifestations of our Christian life? And what’s all this business of eternal punishment anyway? And, beside the fact that he is a really nice man, where did Jesus get that kind of authority?

Christians are obliged to take up the cross and follow Jesus (Lk 9:23). That does not sound very appealing. You can be darned sure that Jesus’ public relations consultant sat him down hard after that little slip-up. Most people do not have much of a stomach for executions, especially their own. What if Jesus really meant it? If the Christian life that hard? Why would anybody follow Christ, except to avoid that eternal punishment thing.

Is it possible that Christ has in mind something more than the avoidance of spending all time in a burning pit of suffering. If God has something more in mind for his righteous people, something very good and beautiful, we could only learn about it by study. That would take time and effort and the guidance of a knowledgable teacher.

God has a good future for his holy people. He intends for each of us to become students and to make students of others (Matt 28:18-20. Jesus set the example. Look how he quotes the scriptures and teaches from the law and the prophets. See how Jesus both teaches the written word but lives it out. That is what we must do in this world today.

 

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2 Responses to “Should lay people study theology?”

  1. Greg Says:

    If He has something good for us we can only learn about it through prayer. Jesus did not say to make students, He said disciples. The pharisees were students. I agree that theology is important for the laity, but i am reacting against a church culture that puts more emphasis on study than on prayer. I have studied much, and it has only left me arrogant and lacking in charity. I am praying that God will save me.

    • patlynch Says:

      Greg, thanks for the response and accept my apology for the tardy posting. My post is a reaction against the kind of culture that says “I have been confirmed, so I don’t need to know any more or seriously read the Bible.” How can we know how to pray if Jesus does not inform and lead us. and how can we know that without some study.” God commands that we love him with totally of heart and soul (Deut 6:5). The more we know about God the more we will love him.


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