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Becoming a theologian

2.18.2020

theologian, valerie woerner, val marie paper, bible study, prayer, spiritual growth, theology, she reads truth, phylicia masonheimer, reading plan, church, women's ministryLately, as I’ve been studying the Word, I’ve realized just how one-dimensional my view of the Bible has been in the past. My friend Phylicia has been a big encourager for me to become a theologian. That might sound like a funny phrase because we assume that requires a seminary degree, to be in the pulpit or have a stack of commentaries with our byline. 

Here’s the actual definition of a theologian, though:

a person who engages or is an expert in theology (or the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, especially the study of God and of God’s relation to the world)

I emphasized that word ENGAGES because I think it’s easy to get stuck on the word EXPERT. 

Don’t do it! 

There’s one being who desperately hopes you’ll see “expert” and disqualify yourself from learning more about God. Any guesses who? It’s not Jesus. It’s the enemy. 

If you read your Bible, I’d say you’re qualified to be a theologian. But as I’ve been digging deeper, I’ve been convicted by how little I’ve cared to really ENGAGE with the text. It’s my backlash response to a world that debates every little thing to death. Why do we do it when we can wrap everything up with a nice tidy bow and say, “There are some things we’ll never know on this side of heaven.”

I’ve said this in situations that completely merit this response, but I began to notice that it was actually becoming my default even in situations where we COULD know this side of heaven. 

The truth is, I think we miss out on so much richness when we keep things casual with the Word. 

  • We read, but don’t study.
  • We ask thoughtful questions, but don’t actually seek an answer.
  • We let the scholars do all the heavy lifting IF we dig in at all. 

One example of this from my own life is how I once viewed the men and women in the Bible. For instance, I’m beginning to realize what stupid decisions they made. Hear me out! I think for a long time, I assumed that it may have been cultural differences. Like maybe I’d understand if I lived in their timeframe. Never mind the fact that I never dug into those curiosities. Instead, I just assumed their actions were approved by God. Now as I read, even though I don’t always see God smiting people when they make bad choices, I DON’T see Him celebrating the choices. In some cases, I even see an obvious string of natural consequences. What this has done for me is show me how loving God is. How faithful He is to His promises even when man wasn’t faithful or obedient. It’s changed the way I view God. 

That’s no small thing. 

Friends, I’ve been so invigorated to study the Word. The more I do, the more I want to. If you’re skimming passages or reading from a devotional for 5 minutes every morning, I want you to know there’s so much more! I think we feel like it’s hard to get there because what we’re already doing doesn’t seem to satisfy our parched soul, but I think we just aren’t digging far enough down until we hit the well. theologian, valerie woerner, val marie paper, bible study, prayer, spiritual growth, theology, she reads truth, phylicia masonheimer, reading plan, church, women's ministry

So where do we start? I’ll share some resources that have helped me! 

BRIDGETOWN SCRIPTURE SERIES

I have loved John Mark Comer’s books so I started listening to his sermons a few months ago. They are going through a series on Scripture and it’s been super fascinating. You can find it on podcast apps or Spotify too!

SEEING THE BIBLE THROUGH WESTERN EYES

I read this book last Summer and it was eye-opening and so helpful. Even now as I read Scripture, I notice and pull back from “Americanizing” it. I don’t think we’d ever say we think the Bible was written specifically for 21st century America, but our interpretations often do!

HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE

Learn how to study your Bible inductively from Kay Arthur. I’ve known this method vaguely for a while but never read a whole book on it. It’s easy to read and walks you through!

* I’ve got a ton of other books on my list to read so follow along here if you want to see what I read next. I literally have an Amazon wish list called “Seminary” because until I get to go to seminary (if that’s God’s plan), I’ll get my Amazon degree in reading all the books! 😉

ENJOYING GOD’S WORD ONLINE CONFERENCE

My friend Katie Orr hosts an online conference every spring all about how to better enjoy, understand and apply God’s Word. It starts March 5! It is jam packed with videos and content from so many women I respect. I watched last year’s and it was so encouraging. Can’t wait to watch this year’s!

FOLLOW PHYLICIA

Phylicia’s heart is to help women dig into the Word and discern things for themselves. In a world of teachers, authors and influencers, it’s easy to take someone’s word for it not knowing if it’s sound. We’ve got to learn to discern for ourselves and Phylicia has encouraged me so much in what she shares to do this! (I see the irony of sending you to follow someone to help you discern for yourself. 😉 Also, I was working on this post and realized Phylicia’s new book comes out TODAY! It’s all about embracing a deeper spiritual life even among shallow or watered-down teaching. Check it out here!

I’ll end with this. 

We’re gonna make mistakes. 

We aren’t God. We don’t speak Greek and Hebrew and even if we did, we didn’t live in the same culture every single story of the Bible was written in which is true for every other human who’s ever lived. That doesn’t mean we should fear studying Scripture or toss our hands in the air swearing off ever making an observation about it. It just means we need to be intentional about it and not cavalier. theologian, valerie woerner, val marie paper, bible study, prayer, spiritual growth, theology, she reads truth, phylicia masonheimer, reading plan, church, women's ministry

The good news? As a believer, we have the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Our insights are not solely dependent on our study, although I think the Lord works through it. John Piper says, “The work of the Spirit in helping us grasp the meaning of Christ’s manual of operation is not to make study unnecessary but to make us radically open to receive what our study turns up, instead of twisting the text to justify our unwillingness to accept it. The lessons are plain for those who long to fight the fight of faith and be an integral part of the war effort. We must be diligent students of the Commander’s manual. And we must soak all of our study in prayer that his Spirit would humble us to submit to every truth and commandment in it.” 

Other good news? God knows our hearts and He’s really gracious with us. As you study, ask for wisdom in your interpretations. And ask for an unsettled spirit or insights from a trusted believer if you have something wrong. 

We don’t want a one-dimensional view of the pages that can literally change our lives more than anything else we have on the shelf.

Pray for wisdom. Dig in. Search for truth. Come humbly. And don’t be afraid to call yourself a theologian. 😉 

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