Well, I’m only a few days behind with this post. But given that I’m the new guy who is still trying to get settled, I’m going to claim that as an excuse. So now I’ve finally find a few minutes to put some thoughts together. At the beginning of any semester, it can be helpful to think about why we study theology. One might claim, ‘Isn’t it sufficient to just love Jesus?’ Why do we need to think about topics like how the New Testament fits into the ancient world, or Trinity, or how salvation is accomplished? Loving God is all that is needed.
Claiming that all we need is to love God is of course true. But we must ask how it is that one loves God, and here Jesus’ words are very helpful. When asked by an expert in the law ‘which is the greatest commandment in the law?’, Jesus answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matt 22.36-37; cf. Mark 12.28-31; Luke 10.25-28).
Notice here that loving God involves the mind. That is, in order to love God to the fullest, we must engage our minds in reflection and study on who he is and what he has done. Of course, Jesus doesn’t mean that everyone should become a paid theologian or teacher. Nevertheless, failure to engage our minds as an act of love and worship is to fail in the act of becoming a disciple of Jesus.
So the challenge at the beginning of every new semester is to remind ourselves that in our studies we are worshiping, serving and indeed loving God. Studying shouldn’t led to a separation of the mind from the heart, but rather a full integration of who we are in the process of becoming disciples of the crucified one. The final word can be given to J.A. Bengel, an 18th century scholar, who wrote:
Apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the text wholly to yourself.
(This quote has been made well-known particularly through the NT scholar Douglas Moo.)