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8 Bad Arguments Against Theology (with Answers)

3 Laws of Theological Motion

Theology is “the study of God.” You can probably see why Christians, new and old, would be interested in this topic. It goes by different names like doctrine, statement of faith, belief, and even trinitarianism. But most religious thought can be brought under this umbrella term: theology. Some people shy away from it citing a number of reasons:

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3 Laws of Theological Motion

Let’s take a closer look at why some people don’t like theology.

Christianity Is a Blind Lead of Faith.

[Tweet “Christianity is not a blind leap of faith.”]

It’s true that some Christians believe that the less reason they have for their beliefs, the better. However, the Bible says that we should love God with our minds. We’re created in God’s image and as such, have reasoning abilities that should be used to honor him just as we honor him with our strength and hearts.

You Don’t Need Theology. You Just Need Jesus.

[Tweet “Christians should desire to study Jesus—the one they say they worship.”]

It’s true; Jesus is at the very heart of Christianity. But those who advocate against theology are missing the point. Jesus is God. If we’re to follow Jesus, we must know something about him. What did he teach? What sort of man was he? The questions go on and on. When we answer these questions, we’re doing theology. We’re being theologians. Perhaps you thought of it in that way, but that’s all the word means.

What’s More Important: Studying Theology or Living the Christian Life?

This is meant to be a rhetorical question. When someone asks a rhetorical question, they don’t really want an answer. They ask it because the answer is implied. So which is more important? They’re both important. Think about building a house. What’s more important: the foundation or the structure itself? It should be obvious. They’re both indispensable. A faith which is not based on truth is crippled and deformed, and a sound understanding of doctrine that doesn’t change your life is useless. You need both.

Knowledge Makes People Proud, and Christians Should Be Humble.

This is a bit trickier. It’s true that people can become “puffed up” with knowledge. It’s also true that Christians are supposed to be humble. However, pride and humility are not logical opposites. Technically, the negation of pride is not-pride. It isn’t humility. But let’s not get hung up on technicalities. The book of Proverbs (which is in the Bible) tell us that we should seek out wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. So there must be a way to pursue knowledge without becoming proud. That’s what I’m advocating for here.

Jesus Never Went to Seminary. Why Should I?

It’s true. Jesus didn’t go to seminary. Of course, they didn’t have seminaries back then, but let’s set that aside for a moment. Would Jesus have gone to a seminary if they had been around in his day? I think he would. First, Jesus had a keen understanding of Scripture. We can see this from the way he understood fulfilled prophecy and because he was able to correct the understanding of the religious leaders of his day. Second, Jesus is often called the “logos” (especially in the Gospel of John. Logos means “word,” “reason,” or “plan.”[1]. Surely someone who can be described as “reason” would be in favor of studying at a seminary. Thirdly, Jesus’ disciple Paul commended the congregation at one of his churches for being diligent to study the Scripture[2] (just the sort of thing they do at seminary). Would Paul have commended the Bereans for doing something Jesus would have prohibited?

Seminaries (Where Theology Is Studied) Are Devoid of Spiritual Life.

The implication is obvious. If you go to seminary (or study theology), you’ll die spiritually. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a study that shows any correlation between spiritual life/death and attendance at a seminary. Are there people at seminary who are spiritually dead. Sure! But isn’t seminary a good place for those folks to be? After all, they get exposed to the gospel on a daily basis while they’re there.

[Tweet “A preacher (in an attempt to curry favor with his audience) “mistakenly” says cemetery and quickly corrects himself to seminary.”]

Sometimes this argument takes the form of a joke. You’ve probably heard it. A preacher (in an attempt to curry favor with his audience) “mistakenly” says cemetery and quickly corrects himself to seminary. This mistakenly devalues something that God has said is extremely valuable: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Hopefully, the audience takes this sort of joke with a pinch of salt.

Ecclesiastes Says That Sorrow Comes with Much Knowledge and Wisdom.

That’s correct. You can look it up in Ecclesiastes 1:18. This may seem like a tough nut to crack, but let’s see what we can do. Dr. Tremper Longman (author of The Book of Ecclesiastes) in his lecture “Life is Difficult and Then You Die” points out that the negative aspects of Ecclesiastes are all true in a world without God. But in a world with God, its a very different story. Not only can this be drawn from a study of the text itself, but it has the added advantage of being perfectly in step with the entire book of Proverbs and Paul’s admonition to the Bereans. In short, the book of Ecclesiastes does paint a bleak picture of wisdom, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means (vis-à-vis The Princess Bride).

Theology Doesn’t Leave Room for the Holy Spirit to Move in Your Life.

Have you heard this one before? It takes on different forms. I’ve often heard it go something like this, “Well, I studied all weekend to prepare for my sermon. But on the way here my [wife, child, news story on the radio, billboard, etc.] really stuck me, and I felt like God wanted me to change my message.” This has a pious ring to it. However, can’t God tell someone what he wants them to say while you’re studying? Why do we attach some special qualities to the spur of the moment type of inspiration? Some will cite Luke 12:11–12 to back up this concept. Do we really think that sermon prep is similar to early Christians being brought before rulers to defend themselves? I don’t think so.

Christians are warned against quenching the spirit, and of course sinning willfully will tend to harden our conscience making it more difficult to discern between right and wrong. Does theology fall into either of these categories? It seems absurd to even entertain the idea that studying God and what God has told us in his word would make it harder for the Holy Spirit to affect change in us. This good sounding motto, I think, can be safely ignored.

Where Does This Leave Us?

On the face of it, it makes sense that Christians would want to study God. The arguments against theology (the study of God) that we’ve looked at don’t really cut the mustard. In addition, we’ve seen some positive reasons for why we should study doctrine. Once we reach our final state after this life, we’ll understand God much better than we do now. How could it be bad to want to/try to understand him now?

Have you heard any arguments like the ones above?


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Why You’ll Never Outgrow the Study of Theology

The Study of Theology Will Be Perfected When Jesus Appears

What Happens to Our Theology When Jesus Appears

Is it possible to be so old and wise that our theology can’t grow anymore? Is there a point where further study would be useless? Consider these words from the apostle John:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

— I John 3:2[1]

The phrase to note is, “what we will be has not yet appeared.” [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Our theology will be perfected when Jesus appears.[/inlinetweet]  If our physical makeup will be different in the eternal state, why not our mental comprehension of God as well? Here are some specific changes that will occur when we see Jesus:

  • Errors: Mistakes of all kinds will be corrected.
  • Gaps: The gaps in our understanding will be filled in.
  • Fully Renewed Minds: Our capacity to understand truth, free from the effects of sin, will be realized.
  • New Truths: New truths (which agree with and confirm Scripture) will be understood.
  • Complete Sanctification: The disconnect between knowing right and doing right will be gone.

    The Study of Theology Will Be Perfected When Jesus Appears
    Copyright: Cameron Whitman

172 Years in the Study of Theology

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk for over three hours with three people who like Credo Courses. Their combined age was 172. What was the biggest lesson I learned? [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]No matter your age, you’ll never outgrown the study of theology.[/inlinetweet] This shouldn’t discourage anyone. It should serve as a testament to the richness of the Christian faith.

Similarities from My Mini-Survey That Surprised Me

In our digital age there are many ways of learning about your audience, but it’s tough to beat sitting down and talking with someone. The tone of voice, body language, and energy of a conversation is hard to replace.

The three individuals I spoke with were Adrian (the youngest of the group), Janet, and Joel. What surprised me wasn’t that they had some things in common, but how many of them they had. Here’s what I learned:

  • 3 out of 3 – Have been or currently are in full-time ministry
  • 3 out of 3 – Expressed a desire to learn more about their faith and use it to help others
  • 3 out of 3 – Went to college
  • 3 out of 3 – Heard about Credo House first and then Credo Courses
  • 2 out of 3 – Have master’s degrees
  • 2 out of 3 – Are men
  • 2 out of 3 – Have more than one child
  • 2 out of 3 – Get much of their information from a network of friends and acquaintances

Three Preconceived Notions Destroyed

None of them fit my preconceived notions. My brain constructs pictures of what certain “kinds” of people are like. I think we all do this. Sometimes my pictures are accurate, but often they aren’t. People who like to study their Bibles are a “kind” of people in my mind. I should have drawn my picture in pencil because it didn’t stand up to reality.

The Study of Theology: Will Keep You from Being Active in Good Works

For some the study of theology is viewed as a danger. Why? Because they believe that knowing rightly and living rightly are opposed to each other. Or, at least, that you can’t do both equally well. So if you have to pick one, you should choose to live rightly.

Maybe you’ve heard someone allude to this yourself. They may say things like, “We should be concerned about living the Christian life. This theology stuff is just head knowledge.” A more spiritual version might be, “I just want to serve Jesus.” It’s hard to argue with a statement like that. As Christians we should all want to serve Jesus. Let’s try to put this in the form of an argument:

Premise 1: Christians should spend their time serving Jesus.

Premise 2: Time spent studying theology is time we don’t have to serve Jesus.

Conclusion: Therefore, we should spend less time studying theology.

It’s hard to argue with the first premise. In fact, I agree with it completely. The second premise has a built-in assumption. An assumption I deny. What is the assumption? It’s that studying theology is not a service we can do to Jesus. This is untrue.

Theology is the study of God. As such, it cannot be contrary to serving God. It may be done (like anything else) in a wrong way. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Properly done, theology is as much an act of worship as feeding the hungry or caring for the sick.[/inlinetweet]

Joel, Janet, and Adrian are good examples of how theology coincides with good works. Adrian runs a full-time Christian ministry. Joel is a deacon at his church and teaches class on Wednesdays. Janet visits the senior center almost daily. She enjoys chatting with her friends (online and off) about theology.

The Study of Theology: Is for Institutions of Higher Education

While Adrian, Janet, and Joel are all well educated, none of them studied theology in college, seminary, or university. However,  they’ve each continued their education through self-study. They’ve gotten study materials from a variety of ministries (including their local church). They then apply it to their lives in practical ways.

There are thousands of religious schools in the United States educating tens-of-thousands of student yearly. For some the amount of time, money, and focus college requires can be too burdensome. The wonderful thing is that folks like Adrian, Janet, and Joel don’t give up. They’re continuing their education on their own.

The Study of Theology: Is for Younger People

Most formal education takes place when a person is younger. This gives them a chance to get a job in their desired field early in life. They will then have the majority of their adult lives to build their careers. When an older person goes to school they are sometimes referred to as “non-traditional.”

I’m happy to report that Adrian, Janet, and Joel all qualify as non-traditional students. Their age hasn’t slowed down their study. Neither has it slaked their desire to deepen their understanding of God.

Just Keep Swimming

In the movie Finding Nemo, Dory tells Marlin[2]:

Dory: When life gets you down, you know watcha gotta do?

Marlin: I don’t wanna know watcha gotta do.

Dory: Just keep swimming.

This is what the lives of Adrian, Janet, and Joel teach us. Despite age, circumstances, and stereotypes, these three just keep swimming.

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Footnotes


  1. “Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”  ↩
  2. Finding Nemo, dir. Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, perf. Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Alexander Gould (Walt Disney Video, 2003), DVD.  ↩