A Gracious Theologian?

One thing I’ve discovered about myself in recent years is that as I learn new things, I’m convinced I’m an expert on them before I truly understand everything I’ve learned. I read a really good article today titled ‘Fourteen Characteristics of Theological Legalism.‘ Michael Patton, a professor at Dallas Seminary wrote:

Theological legalism is nothing new (and such is certainly not limited to the world of theology). Think of the Pharisees who, according to Christ, strained out gnats and swallowed camels (Matt. 23:24). To the theological legalist, there is no such thing as gnats. Christ spoke of the weightier things of the Law (Matt. 23:23). To the doctrinal legalist, all issues are of equal weight. Paul spoke of things of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3); to those who are theological Pharisees, everything comes in first place, there is rarely, if ever, a second.

He then goes on to list 14 ways that show someone who is a theological legalist, and finally, says,

If you love theology, please be the first to put on the attitude of humility. When someone speaks about you in this regard, don’t have your goal to for others to think you are smart or right, but humble and meek. When others talk about your personality with regard to theological discourse, would they say you are arrogant and legalistic, or gracious and meek? This does not mean we sacrifice our passions or beliefs, it just means we temper ourselves for the sake of the Gospel. The truth is too important for us to lose our witness due to theological legalism.

I’ve seen this in my own life, as well as the lives of many of my friends. In college, I discovered that I was reformed, and was convinced only those who were reformed were true believers. Then I discovered I was a Calvinist and was convinced anyone who didn’t hold to the “TULIP” was either uniformed, unintelligent or not a true believer. Yes, we should be a people who are studying the things of God (i.e. theology) but may that knowledge be used to build up others in the body. As I’ve come to know many people who are far smarter and learned than I am, I am continually amazed by their humility and graciousness. These men who are some of the experts in their field took time to stop and talk to me and ask about the ministries I’m involved in, yet I often have trouble “lowering” myself to talk to someone who is an Arminian. What is my problem? I hope and pray that as I continue to grow in my understanding of God, that I am a humble and gracious theologian, one who not only intellectually knows God, but who lives out the things I know so that I may grow to be more like Christ in my everyday life.

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