When I was reading about the benefits of studying systematic theology, I also read about some of the limitations of studying systematic theology. There are many factors in your own life that can limit or counteract the benefit of studying systematic theology.
The one that stood out to me in my reading was “the lack of spiritual discernment/growth” as a limiting factor in studying systematic theology. MacArthur and Mayhue list two scriptures to reinforce their point here, and I want to share them with you.
I Corinthians 3:1-3
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Sometimes I lack spiritual growth and discernment. I often struggle with jealousy. I often neglect the simplicity of the gospel and need to be retaught the basic principles of the scripture.
I often want to share my learning with everyone that I know. It’s part of having a teaching gift. I can’t stop writing for very long, even when I want to. The need pours out of me, and everything that I am thinking starts being formed into words as a gift help someone . . . or at least I hope to help someone. . . sometimes, it’s just to enlarge my reach or make myself look smarter. Trust me when I say that it is not a mark of spiritual maturity to write to expand your platform. That’s why I stopped blogging for a while. I wasn’t spiritually mature enough to actually write for anything other than people pleasing.
Another limitation that I have to watch out for is that I often want to take my knowledge and use it as a weapon. You might remember that, as part of the curse, we women want want to dominate our marriages and have headship over our husband. When you decide to take on a study that your husband isn’t interested in, you might find yourself acting sinfully prideful with your new knowledge. You might find yourself using your knowledge against your husband, and tear him down and instead of build him up.
In interest of full disclosure, I love to study Christian writers, history and theologians. My husband says that the Bible is enough. He’s right. In fact, sometimes he’s better equipped than I am because he’s not distracted by all the different commentators and their opinions about certain verses and passages in the Bible. Yet, sometimes I treat my Biblical knowledge as better, because I study more things outside the Bible.
That brings me to another pitfall that I struggle with. Sometimes I have let my study of Christian authors and commentaries replace my actual Bible reading time. I have learned better, but it’s taken a long time to straighten myself out and to understand that the Bible is primary. Man’s opinions and interpretations of the Bible are nice helps and add-ons, but they are not necessary for the spiritual life.
So, now that I’ve been transparent and confessed some areas of immaturity in my life, and how they might limit my study of theology, it’s time to move along. My next theology post will discuss the spiritual value of sound doctrine. I’m not sure when I’ll be writing it, but I’m sure it will be soon.