I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my dad and Mike a couple years ago. Well, really they were having a conversation and I was listening. We were in the car driving to the airport in Colorado when my dad and Mike were conversing about a theological topic that was way above my head at the time. Though I sat quietly in the backseat, I was intrigued. “Dad,” I asked, “why didn’t you teach me about these theological concepts when I was growing up?”
While my heart wasn’t asking the question in a demeaning or rude way, I am now quite embarrassed to admit that I said that. My parents did a wonderful job of raising us in Christian home – we were in church regularly (my dad was the pastor after all), we were encouraged to read our Bibles daily and even had daily family devotionals at the breakfast table most mornings growing up, despite my complaints. My dad responded kindly with, “Well, I did my best to teach you as much about Christ as I could. I’d be happy to discuss any theological topic you would like to learn about.”
By asking my dad that question, what I was really doing was placing blame on him for what should have been a red flag to myself about my own sanctification process.
Let me explain. In the world today, we (the laity) place the responsibility of our own sanctification on the church leaders. We allow them to shape our theology – what we believe, why we believe it and what we should or shouldn’t do about it. This, friends, is frightening.
As I’ve said before, I am taking two seminary classes this semester – Hermeneutics and Apologetics (and trust me, sometimes I regret it – it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done!). The reason I decided to start seminary in the first place was in order to seek and find the answers to my questions on my own, instead of always asking my incredibly intelligent theologian of a husband. If I had to pinpoint one thing that has stirred my heart the most from these two classes so far this semester would be the importance of loving God with our minds – our OWN minds.
“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:30
Scripture is full of verses that discuss LOVING God with our minds. But what is it to love God with our minds? I know people that have been a Christian for years, been to church service after church service and conference after conference, but still lack basic knowledge about God’s Word. Some would blame the church for watering down the Gospel or the history of subjective interpretation for painting Jesus as simply a moral figure. And while these arguments have merit in today’s increasingly secularized society, my argument is that the main problem for Christian’s lack of biblical knowledge is the lack of effort and care to learn and read the Bible intelligently as followers of Christ.
Recently a friend of ours jokingly said to Mike, “I’ve learned more in my Old Testament class than I did in all my life at the church. Thanks for teaching me nothing.” Given the nature of our friendship, this was a completely appropriate thing to say, and it was quite funny in context. Mike responded with, “Did you know you can read the Bible on your own occasionally too?”
But he’s right. We can read the Bible on our own and as Christians, we OUGHT to the read the Bible on our own. This is a part of loving God with our minds. Loving God with our minds does not mean we all have to attend seminary and obtain a degree in theology (although I do recommend it). It does mean that we are called to spend time in His Word, to seek out answers by prayer, study and even from the theologically trained (Need recommended resources? Just ask!) and to let His Word transform us on the inside out. This implies more than simply pulling out your Bible, reading a verse and placing meaning on the verse as it applies to your feelings that day. As Graeme Goldsworthy states in his book “Gospel Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation”:
The purpose of God’s Word is to bring us to God through the salvation that is in Christ. It does this by revealing his plan and purpose, by conforming us more and more to the image of Christ, and by providing the shape of the presence of God with his people through the Spirit of Christ” (page 317).
If the Gospel has truly saved us, it is then our job to develop a taste and passion for good theology and doctrine. Without a doubt, Church leaders have a responsibility to train and equip their sheep to be more like Christ, but if we leave the sole responsibility of our own personal sanctification on their shoulders, we are not only ignoring the commandment to love God with our minds, but we are also missing out on the amazing things Christ can and will teach us if we simply seek Him.