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I started writing this series on influential books a few months ago because I believe whole heartedly that we need to understand why we believe what we believe. This is why these aren’t book reviews, but rather exhortations to think deeper, be challenged, inspired, convicted, and encouraged much along the lines of “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” in Proverbs 27:17.
This is why today I want to share my love for Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.
Please wait a minute before you close this page because you are assuming this is about to get boring. I promise it’s not and even if it were, I need to explain something really really important.
A little while ago, I heard a lady say that our theology doesn’t matter as long as we are loving since that is what Christ calls us to be. Usually this is based off the 1 Corinthians chapter 13 passage which starts “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Love is so important in this passage, but the point of the passage isn’t to say that love is more important than truth. It says that they have to go together. To read it that love is more important (and sorry since this is technical) is a logical fallacy since the inverse of the statement is not valid (and again, the logical phrasing is more complicated than that, but this is often how people are flipping the statement to support their position).
I understand why this position “only love matters” is so attractive. Theology can be divisive; history has proven so as schisms in the church have erupted and people have been burned at the stake for heresy. We don’t want to wade into this mess and would prefer to keep our lives as Christians on the quiet side, without conflict.
The ironic point is this is what this passage is talking about with the need to have love when we preach truth.
The same concept applies here to grace. Grace is only as good as the truth behind it. Grace stands as it is because of the truth behind it. To divorce the two is to force a choice between permissiveness and legalism. To divorce love from truth is to do the same thing at its essence.
And this leads us to the harder part of this whole post: it requires work. Hard work. Somehow we’ve bought into the idea that studying about God is too “academic” and “not practical” or “not for regular people” and “doesn’t meet people where they are”.
This makes me unbelievably sad. And I have to beg to differ.
I’m pretty normal. So much so that if you saw me on the street you probably wouldn’t look twice at the thirty-one year old brunette unless it was at the three boys usually tagging along and an infant in a stroller all of whom are probably creating some sort of havoc, however humorously. I hate doing dishes. I walk to the bus stop to get my kids and am often running late. I work part time and like to wear earrings.
We are a foster family and we aren’t doing it to add to our family. We do it because there are hurting families out there who need to see God’s love. I went to Biola University where there is an extraordinary Bible program and spent the equivalent of more than a whole year studying scripture and theology alone. I’ve studied one of the languages scripture was originally written in, koine Greek. I own enough theology books to make the guy who came to install internet say, “Wow, that’s a lot of books… Why do you have so many?” I haven’t even scratched the surface of Who God is yet.
I do all of this and think all of this for one simple reason: because it is important. It is practically important enough for a regular person like me to invest significant time and energy into because it is life. There is no life without truth.
We’ve lost the joy that comes from knowing who our God and Savior is.
This is why I love Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. There is so much to know about God that sometimes it is hard to know where to start. I was introduced to this book in college and it really is the gold standard of systematic theologies. All the topics covered in scripture are arranged into approachable essays and the supporting scriptures are listed which, if you are like me, is incredibly helpful since I can never seem to remember references. Grudem does a superb job of laying out the different positions one can take about a doctrine (which is simply a fancy word for a formalized idea) and giving the evidence for each in terms of scripture and stating which one is the most supported. He lets scripture guide the doctrine rather than the other way around. It’s easy and even though the book is big, it is a reference and the articles themselves are interesting and approachable.
It makes answering those big questions seem so much less daunting when there is somewhere to start. I’m exceedingly blessed to have had the education that I did, but honestly, you don’t need to have a degree to start. Just a desire and even then, that can be optional. It’s just obedience.
We are called to know God if we want to follow Him. We can’t follow someone we don’t know.
And maybe this is where a lot of people are going to argue with me that they know Him enough. But I have to say something that has been bothering me here. A lot of people subscribe to this site, both men and women. I know a lot of the men do because they like to think about things theologically and I say this from experience because I’ve had fewer conversations about theology with other women than men despite being with women more. It’s usually from women that I hear “theology doesn’t matter- only love does”.
I’m honestly not picking on anyone here. I’m pointing out maybe we’ve bought into something culturally stereotypical more than we realize. We need to do better. There’s no dichotomy between love and truth that we need to let ourselves fall on one side or the other. The Greek roots of the word theology itself literally translate “the study of God”; it is nothing fancy in an of itself. If women talk about theology, we need to realize that this doesn’t put us into the category of nerds or geeks or anything like that. We need to stop believing the lie that this stuff is boring. It’s not.
How could learning about the One we love be boring? We are happy to listen to and prioritize those we love. If we aren’t prioritizing God, what does that say?
Honestly, I’m just me and I’m not the best or the brightest. I’m just a person in love with the One Who saved me. I was lost and now I’m found. That’s all. I just want to share my love with you by saying this and encouraging and challenging you that maybe you’ll know Him more too. Don’t know Him? Email me and I’d love to talk.
Need a place to start? Every home needs a reference and it you don’t have one, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology is, in my opinion, the best. You can pick one up here
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