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Review Essay, Keeping the Balance

The Problems

Problems of the head To begin with, one of the main problems in a theology course is the “huge amount of information about God” which you will be taking in on a daily basis. Knowledge about God is good, but knowledge of God is just as important. These are two different kinds of knowledge. “It’s like the two [French] verbs savoir and connaître“, Jervis explains. We need to know God personally, not just know things about Him. Our relationship with God and our relationship with other Christians will suffer–even die—if we allow our academic studies (our knowledge about God) to suffocate our devotional life (our knowledge of God). Jervis exhorts students not to “mix up those two types of knowledge” and to “Make every effort to be sure that you are getting to know God better as you study theology”. “A passion for God” and a “passion for theological correctness” are not the same thing. “Spiritual maturity is best measured by your prayer-life, your love for God’s Word and the extent of your daily obedience to it in the way that you live”. When we get this out of balance, we can begin to “look down on other Christians” who haven’t enjoyed our theological education. Worse still, we can find our “heresy-hunting antennae …twitching overtime” when we try to fellowship with them!

Another problem with receiving a surfeit of knowledge is that it can “go rotten and damage us spiritually”. Jervis believes that “if we are receiving a lot of knowledge and not putting it to use or doing anything with it”, that is precisely what will happen to us.

Problems of the heart Motives are another key area that need to be watched. Quoting extensively from J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, Jervis warns Christians against making biblical and theological knowledge an end in itself, divorced from any desire to actually know and experience and love God better. Packer warns that “if we pursue knowledge for it’s own sake, it is bound to go bad on us”, and Jervis suggests, rather disturbingly, that Jesus may have to turn away many an accomplished theologian on the judgement day with those awful words—”I never knew you!”

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2006

About the Author: W. Simpson, PhD (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), is a physicist and writer with an interest in theology, currently engaged in scientific research in the middle-east.

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