A couple of years ago, we were sitting in our living room as I confessed to another young Reformed couple, “I don’t like theology.” We all observed a moment of embarrassed silence in honor of my ignorance.
I recently reflected on that moment as I sat in an enthusiastically Reformed conference. When I say “enthusiastically Reformed,” I mean the sort of zeal you find in that first-semester seminary student who’s just discovered the doctrines of grace and can’t seem to speak of much else. He manages to foist TULIP into an impressive array of situations, from a discussion of biblical texts to a tour of the art museum.
While I’ve grown immensely in my understanding of the importance of biblical truth, the stubborn fact remains: love for theology and doctrine doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s an acquired taste.
But why should you care? Perhaps I lost you at “I don’t like theology.” Nevertheless, I’m convinced you should care, and here’s why: I represent members of your church. Maybe a large segment, maybe a smaller one, but I guarantee they’re out there. With this reality in mind, l’d like to offer three insights from an unnatural theology lover.
1. Even when learning doesn’t come naturally, we can love theology and doctrine if it’s served consistently with a big helping of gentleness and grace.
Be careful not to characterize us as illiterate, uneducated doofuses who haven’t read the Bible. I get where that perception comes from, I do. But it’s not true of all of us, and theology-loving believers should be careful and gentle in their approach. By all means teach, rebuke, and correct us. But please do so gently and graciously. Consider the example of Priscilla and Aquila when they found Apollos full of zeal but lacking in knowledge (Acts 18:18-28; cf. Rom. 10:2; Prov. 19:2). The text tells us the couple took him into their home and unfolded in greater fullness the gospel of Christ (Acts 18:26). Gently and graciously, Priscilla and Aquilla led Apollos to a knowledge of the truth.
2. Sometimes you will need to connect the dots for us.
We need your help. But be willing to help us in humility, without getting exasperated. I’m a creative, non-linear thinker who often absorbs theology more effectively when I trace the application back to the doctrine. I understand why you scorn sermons full of application but lacking meat. But you also need to understand that my way of processing isn’t necessarily inferior; it’s just different. Connect the dots, take me to the truth, and watch the fruit unfold.
3. Don’t give up on us.
For all the creative, feeling-oriented folks in your church, pray and don’t give up. One day, the theology you treasure will strike us in the heart like Cupid’s arrow—and we’ll be hooked. Probably when life trips us up and we need help connecting those dots. And we’ll get it. Finally, we’ll get it. God will accomplish this in us—and perhaps even faster as you use gentleness, understanding, and grace to minister to us. Or, as the apostle put it, as you labor with “great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2; cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-25).
Then, friends, watch out! No eye has seen and no ear has heard the ways we’ll advance the kingdom with our newfound grasp of—and love for—deep truth.