Session 2: Is Theology Really Dull?

➡ Average Reading Time: 15 minutes

Session 1: Is Theology Really Dull?
When you finish this session you should be able to:

  • Understand that Scripture is not dull!
  • Understand the ten hindrances to spiritual maturity
  • Understand the five benefits of being Spiritually enlightened
  • Understand that ignorance is not bliss.

Session Preview

In this session we will introduce you to the concept that theology is not dull, First, we will try to persuade you that you are a theologian. Second, we will endeavor to help you understand that Scripture is not dull, maybe we are as readers, but not Scripture itself. Third, we will examine the tendencies that may block a follower of Jesus from becoming a maturing follower of Jesus, Next, we will help you understand five benefits of becoming spiritually enlightened. Finally, we will seek to show you that ignorance is not bliss.

Where We Are Going

You Are A Theologian
Ten Hindrances to Spiritual Maturity
1. Just believe like a child
2. I don’t trust theology
3. I’m just a carnal believer
4. I’m going to move away from all this evil
5. Theology breeds controversies
6. Anti-intellectualism
7. Thinking like the world
8. Devotional reading as a substitution for study
9. Laziness
10. Disobedience
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
Five Benefits of Being Spiritually Enlightened
1. Knowing gives significance to faith
2. Knowing stabilizes us
3. Knowing helps us to identify error
4. Knowing gives us confidence in our daily lives
5. Knowing filters out fears

You Are A Theologian

It’s true, you are a theologian. You may protest the conclusion, but you really are a theologian. When you became a Jesus follower, you became a theologian. You began the activity of learning everything about God that you could. You may not be a theologian in the academic or professional sense. You may recoil at the thought, but the fact is that you are, for better or worse, a theologian. It is the for the worse part that often produces problems in the lives of followers of Jesus. I have often said, “Bad theology is a cruel taskmaster.” It’s true. Wrongheaded theology is destructive to the people of God because it touches every dimension of their lives. You can’t avoid having a theology. The question is: Do you have a healthy theology?

We all know individuals who know theology but live godless lives. You can have a sound theology and have an unsound life. But this does not give us an excuse for not acquiring sound theology. How can you do the truth without first understanding what the truth is?

I don’t know how many times I have heard, “I don’t want to hear about theology, just preach the word.” In conversations with laypeople, I discovered that there is a belief that theology is something that is human-made and really has no spiritual value. Others have said that theology is just plain dull and has no relationship to reality, or that studying theology is the height of boredom. Those folks just want to experience Jesus rather than knowing and experiencing him.

It seems to me that much of this mindset lays at the feet of the theologians who present theology. The language is often scholar-coded talk. They talk about Monophysitism, Infralapsarian, Chiliasm (kîl´ê-àz´um), Hypostatic Union, and Traducianism. Cool huh! Right about now most of you are thinking what in the world is this guy talking about? These are time-honored theological words that are used in the ongoing debates among theologians. Monophysitism is the argument that Jesus had a divine nature clothed in human flesh. Infralapsarian is the discussion about the dilemma posed by the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Chiliasm is the discussion of Revelation 20.1-10 on the millennium. Hypostatic Union is concerned with the union of the two natures of deity and humanity. Traducianism is one of the four theories of the origin of the individual soul. It is the theory that the soul, as well as the body, comes from our parents. The alternative solutions are the preexistence of all souls (held by Origen and the Mormons); reincarnation; and creationism, in which God creates a fresh soul for each body. All of these arguments originate from a Greek philosophic view of the human which believes that a person is made up of three parts: body, soul, and spirit. As an example, Tertullian held the view of Traducianism. Tertullian is believed by some to be the father of some of the theology of the modern Charismatics and Pentecostals. Lutherans, on the other hand, hold to the Traducianism point of view. However, Roman Catholics and most Reformed theologians are creationists. Modern studies on heredity and psychosomatic unity are often interpreted from the traducianist point of view.

Tertullian (c. 160–225)

African Latin theologian and moralist.
Besides what is known about Tertullian through his lifelong residency in Carthage, a city in northern Africa. He enjoyed a superior education, including literary, rhetorical, and legal training, and instruction in Greek and Latin. Very probably, he practiced law at some point. Sometime in his late thirties, Tertullian was converted to belief in Christ. He was married to a Christian wife, and after her death, he remained a widower. In succeeding years, he served the ecclesiae at Carthage as a gifted teacher. Out of his intense Christian commitment, about 206 BC, he joined the Montanists, an early charismatic Christian sect. Eventually, he led a segment of this group called the Tertullianists. Tertullian remained doctrinally orthodox until his death. The Tertullianists rejoined the church at Carthage several decades later.

“So what!” you say. My point exactly. Seen in the scholar-coded language, these words are meaningless. My purpose is to build a theological understanding of Scripture for those who are not seminarians but would like to have a solid biblical foundation.

My approach to the subjects that we are studying will proceed from a different approach than the traditional theological approach. I want you to understand the material even if you don’t agree. To disagree with me is your privilege and frankly, I expect it. In fact, I invite it. But to misunderstand or fail to understand would be tragic. I want you to enjoy the journey we are about to take.

Another reason that Jesus followers believe theology is dull and not useful is that there is a built-in and long-standing prejudice against theology. One of two things has occurred. People in the pew do not believe that they are in “full-time ministry,” therefore they do not need to understand theology. Or, if they did study theology and gained information about theology, that information was usually not practical for their day-to-day life. This often causes their ears to be plugged and the learning process becomes clogged. I hope these sessions are like a rotter-router job for your mind.

Of course, these excuses are totally erroneous. In the first place, every Jesus follower is in “full-time ministry,” so being theologically equipped is important. Secondly, when did knowing facts equal not being practical? It is ignorance that binds us from freedom, not knowledge. Theology stabilizes us. It is the roots out of which our tree of life grows. With a knowledge of basic theology, we are not defenseless before our adversary.

One more thought: We are not going to attempt to be exhaustive. We will only offer you a door through which you may walk and discover all the information you want. The information we present is basic and fundamental. It will hopefully whet your appetite.

Ten Hindrances to Spiritual Maturity

Studies made over the last few years suggest that American Christians are woefully ignorant of the content of Scripture. These studies leave a clear message: The followers of Jesus are not making a difference in the lives of people or in the culture in which they live. Just follow the daily news and you will observe that politics is the driving force, not theology. While dated by two or so years, The State of Theology report from 2018 demonstrates that Jesus followers are divided and sometimes just plain dumb when it comes to theology.

The following is a summary outline of some of the causes that hinder Jesus followers and cause them to be unable to reach toward the goal of spiritual maturity.

1 Just believe like a child

It has almost become a virtue in many Christian groups to push believers toward having a childlike faith. Actually Jesus said, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it (Mark 10.15). This verse has often been used to suggest that Jesus followers should have childlike faith and then they can enter the kingdom. It is true that the followers of Jesus should learn to trust in God as children trust their parents to take care of them. However, we have substituted childish as a meaning for childlike. Childish faith is one that is unwilling to learn the things of God in depth. A childish faith refuses the meaning of the gospel while clinging to a diet of milk. The call of the Second Testament is to maturity, not childishness. Paul told his Corinthian readers that he spoke, understood, and thought like a child, but when he became a man (an adult as opposed to a child), he put away childish things (1 Cor. 13.11). He called the Corinthians to understand the distinction between being childish and becoming an adult, “…do not be children in understanding; however in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature” (1 Cor. 14.20; mature here means fully developed). It’s time to stop being infants in our theology and become mature.

2 I don’t trust theology

As a whole, Jesus followers have become distrustful of theology. We have heard horror stories about people who have studied theology, who have become dry as dust and dead as doornails, and colleges and universities which turn out skeptics of Jesus. Our conclusion: If that is what happens when one studies theology, then I am going to avoid it at all costs. That is bad theology for sure. But, to avoid all theology because there is bad theology is to pursue spiritual death, not spiritual life. Certainly, you don’t want to find yourself rejecting the knowledge of God that Scripture offers. To reject theology is to do just that.

3 I’m just a carnal believer

Can you say antinomianism? Why would you want to? This is the ancient name for what today we might call carnal believers. It is the belief that one can receive Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. The church (ecclesiae) is full of believers who are using drugs, abusing alcohol, living in illicit relationships with the opposite and the same sex. When approached about their lifestyle, they often shrug it off by responding that they are carnal Christians. To be a Christian in the biblical sense is to become an adherent of Jesus, one who becomes his disciple. A disciple is a disciplined learner, called to a disciplined study of the things of God and a disciplined lifestyle based on Scripture.

4. I’m going to move away from all this evil

Ever wanted to just move away and leave all this behind? It’s called neo-monasticism, a withdrawal from the world. In “church history,” the monastic movement glorified withdrawal from the world to live and seek spiritual purity. Those leaving society often pursued a life of prayer and spiritual devotion. Some secluded themselves so they could study. However, the study element is not present in new monasticism. Believers just “drop out” of the world, some in their attitude and others with their lifestyle. This removal betrays a lack of theological understanding. It is in the arena of the world that Christian activity occurs. Christianity for the dropouts becomes a spiritual ghetto. Individuals reject the study of anything that does not fit the belief system which the individual already holds. To study the arts, humanities, literature, philosophy, yes, even theology, to name a few, is often seen as unspiritual. This dropout mentality breeds ignorance of the culture in which one lives and the ideas which shape that culture. To retreat from the world is to suffer defeat by default. How many times do we wring our hands at the secularization of the American or Western culture and wonder how it happened? The dropout mentality leads to catastrophe.

5. Theology breeds controversies

There is no question about it! When you engage in the study of theology, the controversy will occur. When I joined the Air Force in another life, I was encouraged to never talk about religion or politics, because it would only generate heat and very little light. Therefore, to live in peace and harmony, which are seen as good qualities, one should not discuss things which can be controversial, because controversy is seen as bad. While we should avoid godless controversies, we should enter into Godly controversies. Those who become combatant when discussing theology are those who have little to no understanding of theology. Remember, a little knowledge can often make one dangerous. Those who are immature, who are often the most quarrelsome, are often the ones who are arguing about minor points that often serve to divide followers of Jesus. As you master theological truth, you will be able to discern what issues are negotiable and what issues to die for.

6. Anti-intellectualism

We may be living in one of the most anti-intellectual periods of Christian history. This doesn’t mean antiacademic, because colleges and universities are growing by leaps and bounds. It does not mean antitechnological, because technology is booming. It doesn’t mean antiscientific, because science is still a god to a large majority of folks. Anti-intellectual means against the mind. What one feels has become more important than what one thinks.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Richard Hofstadter points out that the Reformed Faith built in America its only indigenous intellectual tradition. The Puritans, he believed, degenerated it into revivalism and lost its intellectual balance. The Reformed evangelists of the Great Awakening were also presidents of Princeton and Yale. Other evangelists like Charles Finney boasted in their lack of education. Evangelicalism has a legacy of anti-intellectualism that has crippled its witness to the watching world, and at the same time has opened the ecclesiae up to the most remarkable incidents of stupidity and skepticism.

So, which one governs us? Our mind or our emotions? We are governed by one or the other. That’s surely Western. Does your heart (emotions) inform your head? Or, does your head inform your heart? This is Western thinking at its best or maybe at its worst. We love to think compartmentalized. The Hebrew mind, on the other hand, loved to think in terms of the whole. How often have you heard speakers contrast the head and the heart? Head equals the mind while heart equals the seat of one’s emotions. They are pitted against one another. We are forced into making a choice. Will we be controlled by the head or by the heart? The intent of Scripture was never to force us into this dilemma.

The Hebrew mindset does not break humans into compartments like we tend to do. As an example: “The word heart in the Frist Testament is a broad, inclusive term. In our culture, we tend to divide a human being into isolated functions, such as the spiritual, the intellectual, the emotional, the rational, and the volitional. But Hebrew thought maintains the unity of the person. It looks at a human being as a whole and expresses all of these and other human functions by the use of one word, heart. In the First Testament the heart is the conscious self—the inner person with every function that makes a person human” (Larry Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, 334. In A Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Alan Richardson writes, “In particular, the widely-held distinction between mind as the seat of thinking and heart as the seat of feeling (esp. tender feeling) is alien from the meaning these terms carry in the Bible” (144). In short, God wants a wholehearted response.

When Jesus said that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he did not mean that humankind was made up of these separate parts (Mark 12.30). He meant that we should worship God wholeheartedly.
A wholistic position is the best position to pursue in the area of mind and emotions. We need to be grounded and established. This calls for us to use our minds and emotions. We don’t build a fire in the middle of our living room just because we “feel” like enjoying its warmth, lest we burn down our house. Neither do we stack firewood neatly outside and stare at it through our window on a cold night in winter, lest we freeze to death. A blending of mind and emotion will build a fire in the right place that will drive out the darkness of the most gloomy weather, warming the body and bringing comfort.

Rather than emphasize the role of feeling at the expense of the intellect, why not emphasize the importance of both? Christianity is something we are meant to feel deeply and think clearly about. Our reason should be filled with the warmth of emotions and our emotion-filled with the light of reason (Nathan and Wilson. Empowered Evangelicals. 231).

7. Thinking like the world

The most seductive force today is the temptation to embrace the view of truth which is currently popular in America. Paul knew that the folks in the Ephesian ecclesiae could be “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4.14). It is astonishing that followers of Jesus are so interested in the latest spiritual fads. We read, watch, and absorb ideas about meditation, the felt need syndrome, love, prosperity, and lately “my truth” and then incorporate these ideas into our Christian faith without realizing it.

The following quote attributed to C. S. Lewis brings clarity. “Our felt needs are trivial. It’s not only that they are human-centered, but that the pleasures of such religion fall so far short of the everlasting peace that comes from a sound understanding of The Faith. We’re so wrapped up in tips for living, relationships, and success in life, we miss the grander scheme of redemption from God’s wrath. We are like children making mud-pies in the slums when we could be enjoying a holiday at the sea. (Michael Horton. “Sloth in our Day.” He wants to tell us who he is and how he saved us from his wrath, and there we are asking him if he’s got any candy in his pockets!”

We are often blown away with the slightest breeze of doctrine. The cure for being blown away by “every wind of teaching” (Eph. 4.14) is to be rooted and grounded in “healthy theology.” We should influence the world with what we believe, not let the world influence us to believe what it wants us to believe.

8. Devotional reading as a substitution for study

Can the devotional reading of Scripture become a hindrance to your spiritual growth? If it has become your substitute for serious study of Scripture, the answer is a resounding yes! This actually could be considered an oxymoronic statement. Isn’t a serious study of Scripture an act of devotion? Our Study needs to inform our devotions.

9. Laziness

Being born from above doesn’t remove the tendency for laziness. We are no more instantly cured of laziness as we are from any other habit of life that was a part of our former nature. Being a follower of Jesus requires work. We do not work in order to receive our salvation. We do work in order to keep it. God promised assistance. However, his help doesn’t annul our responsibility to work. Philippians 2.12-13 suggests that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The entry in Asbury Bible Commentary says, “Therefore in light of the humble, self-sacrificing service called for, continue to work out your salvation with “awe-inspired by…the divine presence.” This is a call to perseverance, which requires human cooperation. “Here is our duty,” says Wesley. This is to be done because “it is God who works in you,” to which Wesley responds, “Here is our encouragement.” That there is a paradox in perseverance is obvious. Salvation is ultimately the work of God’s grace, but his grace is effective in salvation only as we “trust and obey.” (Asbury Bible Commentary Copyright © 1992 by The Zondervan Corporation.)

Lazy believers will remain immature because they fail to apply themselves to a diligent study of God’s word. Theological error is just as much a sin as fornication. The primary reason that we misinterpret Scripture is not that the Holy Spirit has failed to do his work, but because we have failed to do our work. If you don’t know who God is, how he acts, and what those acts mean, it will be difficult for you to have an abiding love for God.

10. Disobedience

If we allow the above causes to continue to drive our lives, we simply will be in disobedience to God. On the other hand, for the heart to remain inflamed with a passion for God, the mind must be informed. Understanding theology is necessary, but not completely sufficient. The mere presence of sound theology without the operation of the Holy Spirit will leave us cold.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

In the mid-1980s a Newsweek article “No Allusion in the Class Room” about American’s inability to know stated the following:

Ralph Nader is a baseball player. Charles Darwin invented gravity. Christ was born in the 16th century. J. Edgar Hoover was a 19th-century president. “The Great Gatsby” was a magician in the ‘30s. Cid Caesar was an early Roman emperor. Mark Twain invented the cotton gin. Jefferson Davis played guitar from the Jefferson Airplane. Benito Mussolini was a Russian leader of the 18th century. Dwight D. Eisenhower came earlier, serving as a president during the 17th century. Socrates was an American Indian chief.[ref] Charles Swindoll. Growing Deep in the Christian Life. 20. [/ref] Ignorance is not bliss! Ignorance is the breeding ground for fear and prejudice. Ignorance leads to superstition and slavery.

In the life of the ecclesiae, an uneducated ecclesiae is a defenseless ecclesiae.

While dated, in a survey several years ago by the Barna Research Group (Barna Research Outline: March 1995. 1) the following was discovered and in my opinion, not much has changed:

  • Eight in ten (80%) born-again Christians agree with the statement, “the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves.”
  • Half (49%) expresses agreement with the statement, “the devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.”
  • By definition, all born-again Christians believe they, personally, will go to heaven because they “have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.” However, four in ten (39%) of the born-again segment also maintain that “if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in heaven.”
  • Three in ten (30%) claim that “Jesus Christ was a great teacher, but he did not come back to physical life after he was crucified.”
  • Twenty-nine percent contend that “when he lived on earth, Jesus Christ was human and committed sins, like other people.”
  • The same percentage (29%) assert that “there are some crimes, sins, or other things which people might do which cannot be forgiven by God.”
  • One quarter (26%) disagree that “[they], personally, have a responsibility to tell other people [their own] religious beliefs.”
  • Fifteen percent disagree that “the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings.”

This did not differ significantly from what nonbelievers believed.

Five Benefits of Being Spiritually Enlightened

1 Knowing gives significance to faith.

What does a person who does not know and understand rely upon in life? Emotions only, someone’s book, someone’s opinion, traditions? Of such, Kool-Aid® drinkers are made. Faith that lacks roots can be disastrous. When times of testing or attack occur, those without a knowledge of God and his book often fail to meet the challenge.

2 Knowing stabilizes us.

When we know who God is by how he has acted in his word and what those acts mean, we can have faith in the faithfulness of God and not panic when the bottom seems to fall out of our lives. Knowing and experiencing is a calming force in the midst of turmoil.

3 Knowing helps us to identify an error

If you know what you believe, the enemy cannot throw you off course.

4 Knowing gives us confidence in our daily lives

Those who constantly struggle and stumble in their daily lives are usually those who have not come to an understanding of what they believe. They are not continually exposing themselves to Scripture and God’s point of view.

5 Knowing filters out fears

When you don’t understand what God says about who’s in charge, you are susceptible to fear and failure.

Community Discussion Questions

  • ➡ |CDQ Info|
    What do you think is important about having a life perspective based on theology.
  • What is the distinction “between biblical theology and dogmatic theology” and why is that important to Jesus followers.

End of Sesssion

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)