There’s a subtle arrogance I find present in anti-intellectual types of believers. You know who I’m talking about. You walk up to someone to share some new insight into the Scripture, and your excitement is met with “what’s the point?” You share some point of God-exalting theology and the response comes, “how does this apply to my life?” You’ve just come from reading one of the old dead guys with heart aflame and are told that you “ought to be reading more of the things of God and less of the things of man.”
I really ought to say something before carrying on. I’ve got people in mind here, and I love them. I find that many of these same people love Jesus, trust in him, and want to serve him in holiness. They’re dear saints with far fewer shortcomings than me. I don’t want to be guilty of pointing out specks with a neck aching from the weight of a big old log. My sincere aim here is to point out a flaw which I believe my brothers and sisters in the faith genuinely would want to be rid of, if they knew of it.
It’s a subtle arrogance, like I said. I think the logic goes like this:
The only doctrines/teachings which matter are those with immediate practical application.
I can see no immediate practical application to this doctrine/teaching.
Therefore, this doctrine/teaching does not matter.
There’s no other word for this than arrogant. This line of reasoning makes two assumptions: one, it assumes that doctrine must have an application which is immediate and practical; two, it assumes that I can discern whether it has such an application.
By this line of reasoning, no singles should read books or sit under teaching about marriage or parenting. By this line of reasoning, most of the Old Testament is now obsolete. By this line of reasoning, if I don’t understand something in the Scripture, I should throw it out. By this line of reasoning, Israel would have been justified in ignoring the many prophecies of Christ.
Some theology has no immediate application. The doctrine of the decrees made no immediate difference in my life when I learned it. Over time, it has helped me to understand so much more about God, however. Ought I to have jettisoned it years ago?
Some theology has no practical application (by which I assume these dear friends mean an application the fruit of which can be measured by external works). The doctrine of God’s aseity has done nothing for me except make me love God more– should I stop teaching it to my students?
Some theology has no discernible application. I explain it to my students like this: my favorite breakfast food is biscuits and gravy. It makes me break forth into singing. My least favorite breakfast food is oatmeal. Eating oatmeal is basically penance for my many sins. Some days in the Word are biscuits and gravy days; rich and delightful, lifting my soul to God in praise and wonder. Some days are oatmeal days; I’m just doing this because I know it’s good for me. Because I’m an adult (I think), I don’t have to be told to eat my food; I know it’ll make me grow big and strong, even if I don’t feel it working. God promises to reap a return on his Word, that we will be led forth in joy because of it, to the glory of God (Isaiah 55:10-13).
All theology is measured by whether it is true to the Scriptures, and whether it promotes the law of love. My understanding of its immediate, practical application is no true test, and to submit theology to such a test is myopic at best, and smacks of arrogance.
Not every doctrine of Scripture can be likened to an apple, present, crisp, refreshing. But every doctrine of Scripture helps to tend an orchard in the soul of the believer, yielding fruit in seasons of need.