Sadly, survey after survey (here’s one) show that a large portion of professing Christians are, when it comes to matters of their own religious faith, severely uneducated. Sometimes it’s not their fault. Usually it is. Many Christian adults have never even read the whole Bible, which they believe is the inspired Word of God, upon which their entire system of thought is founded. One atheist quips “It’s like a lawyer spending thousands of dollars and years in law school while never managing to actually read the Constitution.” His insult is not entirely undeserved, and it makes me wonder, Why aren’t Christians learning about God and Christianity with fervor?
Reading in Hosea, I was reminded how important it is to study spiritual truth. God is not content for us to sit back, but desires us to be active in pursuing a complete picture of the truth that he condescended to give to us via the Bible. In Hosea chapter 4, God is bringing an accusation against Israel, his chosen people. He says that there is “no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery.” God is very aware of something my pastor said yesterday in his sermon: that bad theology leads to bad living (and vice versa, creating a kind of circle—but the point is, the two are very much interrelated). In verse 6, God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God [read: the Bible] I also will forget your children.” In fact, in chapter 6, God says he prefers knowledge of God over burnt offerings.
These texts have something to say to us. We Christians are God’s people now, the real Israel, and the people with whom God is in covenant relationship. In Matthew 22:29, Jesus himself rebukes the Pharisees because they did not know the Scriptures well enough. Our sincerity is not sufficient—our faith is only as good as the validity of its object. Remember in Romans 10:2, that Paul says the Jews have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Their ideas about God were incorrect, so their zeal was meaningless. Fortunately, God has given us the truth about himself in the Bible, since all Scripture is profitable for doctrine and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Bible study, then, is not an option in the Christian life.
Christian ignorance comes from two sides, of course. First, there is poor teaching in churches where the truth is watered down, stops at preschool level, or is replaced with cheerleading, motivational speeches, or funny anecdotes. My advice: find a better church. But second, there is the laziness or apathy of the individual Christian. Theology is not for “them.” It’s for YOU! And luckily, we in the West have a pile of resources to help us learn about God. There is no excuse. And why wouldn’t you want to learn about the thing which is most important to you? Go ahead, pick up a systematic theology book. It may weigh ten pounds, but no one is asking you to finish it by next Wednesday. There are great ones. Try James Boyce or Wayne Grudem. For a slightly lighter serving, Grudem has a condensed version simply called Bible Doctrine. Not a bad starting place. There are also great books by R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer (notably, Knowing God), Michael Horton, and James White, just to name a few. Don’t know where to start on the Web? Try
The resources are endless. Unfortunately, you have to filter out the jewels from the junk. With a good foundation laid from the kinds of teachers and ministries I listed above, that will become much easier over time. Eventually, you’ll be able to sniff out faulty teaching like a hound. I leave you with the apostle Peter’s encouragement to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.