The Bible teaches us to search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and to rightly handle the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Christians are to hide God’s Word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11). And yet, many people want to avoid difficult questions of theology. They make excuses for not coming to careful biblical conclusions about what is true. R.C. Sproul wrote a wonderful book titled, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, in which he identified several reasons people avoid studying theology. Here they are, mixed with my own thoughts.
1. The Childlike-Faith Error
Some people believe it’s better to have a simple childlike faith that doesn’t bother with complicated matters of Scripture. Now, we should have faith that simply trusts what God says, like a child, but we should not have a childish faith.
Hebrews 5:12-14 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
1 Corinthians 14:20 says, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”
2. Easy Believism
Some people think that all we need to do is trust in Jesus. They think that as long as they know who Jesus is, they don’t need to know any more. But God gave us His whole Word to learn and to grow into the likeness of Christ. It is a rejection of God’s wisdom to deny that you need the whole of Scripture to grow as a Christian.
Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” And John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in truth, your Word is truth.”
Christians need to understand the whole of Scripture to be well-armed against the attacks of Satan, the world and the flesh. Without a full understanding of Scripture, you will be woefully underprepared to weather the trials and temptations of this life.
3. Different Interpretations
Some Christians don’t study theology because they think that since faithful pastors and theologians have studied the Bible and have come to different conclusions, the details of theology must not matter all that much. Many conclude that having a consistent system of biblical truth must not be that important. This is really a subtle attack on God Himself.
First, it implies that God didn’t intend us to understand most of what He said. He must have written most of the Bible to hear Himself talk, which creates confusion among His people. But “God is not a God of confusion” (1 Cor 14:33).
Second, it implies that God does not speak clearly, but in garbled ways that are too hard for His people to understand. But such a god would either be unkind to confuse His people or unable to speak clearly. Our God, however, is both powerful and loving. And the Bible says that His Word is clear. Psalm 19:7 says, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Now Christians do have different interpretations, but that’s because of sin and the effects of sin on our minds. We are all responsible to understand what God has said. Just because there are different interpretations doesn’t mean that we are free to ignore God’s word.
Some Christians think that education and developing the mind is a worldly endeavor, and that Christians should just invest themselves in prayer. Paul was skilled in knowledge (2 Cor 11:6), as was Moses (Acts 7:22) and Apollos (Acts 18:24). Paul held daily classes in Ephesus, not in the church, but in the hall (or school) of Tyrannus, which was open to the community, so that “all the residents of Asia” heard what he was teaching, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:8-10). FF Bruce and Simon Kistemaker say that this school was the seedbed from which pastors and missionaries went to spread the word throughout Asia. Thus, an anti-intellectualism is foreign to the Scriptures.
5. Fear of Controversy
Some Christians think that if they study theology, they’ll just be getting involved in endless controversy. There’s no end to theological dispute. If I want to avoid a quarrelsome spirit, I’ll just need to avoid theology. But the problem with this thinking is that if you want to avoid controversy, you’ll have to avoid Jesus Himself. Christ brought great controversy. Scripture actually teaches us to fight for truth.
Jude 3 says, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
6. Personal Laziness
A final reason people don’t study is that they’re too lazy to do it. Studying the Bible is hard work and it requires investment of energy and thought. Philippians 2:12-13 says we’re to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There is no shortcut to learning biblical theology.