TMT#11 Grumpy Theology

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life either in full-time ministry or full-time study of the Bible. I love the church; I love the Scriptures; but most of all, I am passionate about God. Theology—the study of God—is my jam.

Grumpy theology is not.

Let me implore you: if you have decided to follow Jesus, the Bible should be your most prized possession. It describes the God we serve and the Saviour that freed us from the power of sin; a handbook to human flourishing (2 Tim 3:16-17); a history of a people lost without their heavenly Father, and the early beginnings of a Church—the bride of Christ—that would profoundly and permanently impact this world. Through careful study, we can break through both culture and language barriers, ensuring that, to the best of our ability, we understand the message as it was originally intended. There is no denying that the lack of Biblical understanding presents a profound challenge in the 21st century, leading to all sorts of wonky and misguided interpretations. But we’re talking about a slightly different issue today.

On the other end of the spectrum is what I have reluctantly started referring to as grumpy theology. Here’s an unfortunate truth: if we are not extremely careful, our intellectual increase in Biblical understanding can cause a proportionate rise in pride, critical spiritedness and general negativity.

It shouldn’t be that way.

I realise the flagrant irony of criticising those that criticise, but I think this is an important conversation to have. Grumpy theologians are often academically minded and to their credit, feel justifiably aggrieved when people misrepresent the Word of God. Amen! However, it is surprisingly easy for self-righteousness to creep in and fill the place where humility should be; where unnecessarily harsh judgement and negativity rather than love become all too regular.

Head without heart. Legalism, not love.

Bible College and Seminary students are incredibly susceptible to this. Honestly, this has been and can still be a challenge for me. There are entire movements of churches that are filled with breathtakingly smart, godly theologians who have so much to bring to the table, but instead, seem to spend more time angrily judging the errors of others than positively elevating the beauty of truth in its own right. I find this approach heartbreaking because it masks the wonder of the Gospel we seek to advance in unnecessary grumpiness.

Right theology is vital. Grumpy theology is unhelpful.

Echoing the words of the apostle Paul, May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him (Rom. 15:13a). May we be overflowing with joy, not criticism, in light of the wonder of the cross, displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) in abundance, dealing with one another kindly, humbly, and constructively; not grumpily.

Let’s be clear: sometimes we absolutely do need to correct erroneous theology and misrepresentations of God’s Word. But here’s the challenge: as far as possible, let’s focus on what we are for more than what we are against!

Let’s be joyful theologians.

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