What to Say? "You study too much...Jesus is Simple..."

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pianoman

Puritan Board Freshman
What do you say when people tell you that " I don't have to study theology and stuff like that because Jesus is simple, you're reading too many books by men?" in response about the inspiration of scripture and sins in scripture like homosexuality, etc. and their seeing Grudem's Systematic Theology on my coffee table with Matthew Henry beside. This person also stated that " people are being pushed away from the gospel because christians talk about sin too much." Can it be sin to study too much about Theology, etc.? I'm really wondering because I love to study
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
I would say, "That is a very interesting theology you have there. Have you checked it against the Scriptures or any of Church Fathers or is this completely your own?" Ask him to give you his description of who Jesus is and help him to understand that there is not discussion of Jesus without theology. Example: Jesus died = fact. Jesus died for me = theology.

Remind him that he's not the first person to want to re-invent the wheel for the 1 millionth time.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
One could ask this person if they knew how books written by men that the translators of their own Bible have read. If they read any English translation, they are reading the work of serious Bible scholars. So they're willing to make use of others' work, but are not willing to put any work into learning for themselves about God? I would like to ask this person this question: "If you truly believe that all you need is the Bible, and you don't need to read anything else, then aren't you denying that the Holy Spirit has been given to the churches throughout history?" This person believes that salvation is simple. The Gospel message about being saved is simple. The Christian life, however, is anything BUT simple. While it is true that all things necessary for salvation are plain in Scripture, it is not true that everything needed to live the Christian life is plain in Scripture (since the entire Scripture is needed for the Christian life, and the entire Scripture is not plain). The example of the Bereans proves that study is necessary to grow in the Christian life.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
What do I say?

Probably nothing, at first, because that kind of thing makes me mad and when I get mad I clam up to avoid making a fool of myself.

Then, a couple days later, after I'm settled down, I'd write an email explaining, first of all, that everyone "does theology." Some people get it from God's word; everybody else makes it up to suit themselves. Theology is, simply, your view of God.

I would also add that no one will come to the gospel unless Christians talk about sin, because the gospel is fundamentally about sin. If you don't talk about sin, there's no reason to talk about the gospel either--unless you've invented something else that you're calling "the gospel" that has nothing to do with Christ coming to deliver His people from their sins.

---------- Post added at 12:08 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:06 PM ----------

Come on, guys. Can't I ever have the first comment? :)
 
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pianoman

Puritan Board Freshman
One could ask this person if they knew how books written by men that the translators of their own Bible have read. If they read any English translation, they are reading the work of serious Bible scholars. So they're willing to make use of others' work, but are not willing to put any work into learning for themselves about God? I would like to ask this person this question: "If you truly believe that all you need is the Bible, and you don't need to read anything else, then aren't you denying that the Holy Spirit has been given to the churches throughout history?" This person believes that salvation is simple. The Gospel message about being saved is simple. The Christian life, however, is anything BUT simple. While it is true that all things necessary for salvation are plain in Scripture, it is not true that everything needed to live the Christian life is plain in Scripture (since the entire Scripture is needed for the Christian life, and the entire Scripture is not plain). The example of the Bereans proves that study is necessary to grow in the Christian life.

Thanks for the reply. I brought up the Bereans, along with other writers who in my opinion have obvious, Holy Spirit filled writings like Spurgeon, Luther, and since they are basically arminians I brought up Wesley since he talked about the bible quite often obviously. They responded by saying "They are just men." Although they do not say it, they are leaning to a post-modern, whatever is right for you and whatever is right for you it ok kind of thing. It has no foundation to it. i just get the hint of post-modern and universalism type thinking.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
This person also stated that " people are being pushed away from the gospel because christians talk about sin too much."

I would challenge them on this. Why should you be the one on the defensive? Make them give some facts to back up that statement because frankly, it's hogwash (or ratbrains, whatever one's preference might be).
 

pianoman

Puritan Board Freshman
These two people have been in a Southern Baptist Church for about 1 year. I know the pastor and he preaches a straight doctrine without a doubt eventhough he's not reformed(typical 3 point baptist I guess). so, its so confusing.

---------- Post added at 11:23 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:21 AM ----------

This person also stated that " people are being pushed away from the gospel because christians talk about sin too much."

I would challenge them on this. Why should you be the one on the defensive? Make them give some facts to back up that statement because frankly, it's hogwash (or ratbrains, whatever one's preference might be).

Amen brother. Yes, I asked them where they got their facts from, and I also asked them how many apostles were killed for their faith. They responded with the correct answer. So, then i asked well, you think everybody loved what they said and what Jesus had to say because they were all killed for preaching the gospel? The gospel is offensive to our selfish minded egos.
 

JoyFullMom

Puritan Board Junior
My 20yo dd has seen this a lot at college and she calls it "The Beatles Theology", aka "All You Need is Love". She has been told that doctrine is divisive and all we need is to love Christ and each other.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
Thanks for the reply. I brought up the Bereans, along with other writers who in my opinion have obvious, Holy Spirit filled writings like Spurgeon, Luther, and since they are basically arminians I brought up Wesley since he talked about the bible quite often obviously. They responded by saying "They are just men." Although they do not say it, they are leaning to a post-modern, whatever is right for you and whatever is right for you it ok kind of thing. It has no foundation to it. i just get the hint of post-modern and universalism type thinking.

Are you sure this person has a grasp on the gospel himself? From what you're saying, it sounds like this person needs evangelized.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Heb 5:11-14
11About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The man who desires to remain simple in the things of God is a man disobeying God Himself. There are only two options for the Christian: maturity or sloth. A man who claims to know Jesus in a simple-minded fashion is a man who does not understand the Christ who spoke in parables to blind the eyes of those who did not want to invest any time in His teaching.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV) - "And he gave the apostles, the prophest, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself in love."

Teachers and preachers are not only helpful in this matter, but God has made them indispensible. That is to say, no one is going to grow up into godhood properly without a supportive team of Christians around him, constantly rubbing their minds against his, and his against theirs to be sharpened. Iron sharpens iron. We need to understand that God has so ordered the body of Christ that we cannot function without one another. A man who does not join himself to a fellowship, or does not take the advice of others, will find himself constantly stunted in his growth. God didn't need to do it this way, but He did.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
What do you say when people tell you that " I don't have to study theology and stuff like that because Jesus is simple, you're reading too many books by men?" in response about the inspiration of scripture and sins in scripture like homosexuality, etc. and their seeing Grudem's Systematic Theology on my coffee table with Matthew Henry beside. This person also stated that " people are being pushed away from the gospel because christians talk about sin too much." Can it be sin to study too much about Theology, etc.? I'm really wondering because I love to study

Here's another thought: You could tell them that you don't need to listen to them because they're just men.

With respect to your question about it being sin to study theology too much--there is the possibility that one can get so wrapped up in studying "theology" that he forgets the God he thinks he's studying. To put it another way, you can learn about God academically without knowing Him personally. That, I think, would be sinful.
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
I think he is right and wrong. A lot of Christians love reading Piper or Spurgeon or whomever but don't often spend much time in the Scriptures (I have seen this first hand). On the other hand there is no reason to disregard the great body of scholarship available to Christians.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Jesus is simple but He's also profound at the same time.

There are shallows where a child can paddle and deeps in which a theological elephant can swim.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior
Funny, I just recently had a conversation with one of my cousins, who's a Christian, and as I lead the discussion by bringing up and explaining essential truths of Christianity (e.g., does the Atonement of Christ save, or does it only make savable), he kept saying things like, "You know, I'm not so much into debates over theology, I simply follow Christ." I was pretty shocked by the blindness of the contradiction of that statement.
 

CIT

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Ask them, "The words 'justification' and 'sanctification' are in the Bible. Can you tell me what these two words are and how they differ? Oh you can't? HHHMMMM.....Then maybe you should study a bit more."

I saw someone do that once. It was quite the verbal smack down.
 

Sviata Nich

Puritan Board Freshman
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." -Mathew 22:37

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." - Philippians 1: 9-11

Following Jesus does not conflict with theology, for theology is the study of God. If you don't want to learn more about God, then you don't love Him. And if you don't love Him, then you must be following someone else...

P.S Has he read all of Jesus' parables? If he thinks those are simple, please, tell him to write a book.
 

O'GodHowGreatThouArt

Puritan Board Sophomore
I always wonder how it is possible for Jesus to be "simple" every time I take a glance at my bookshelf, and then my Bible.

I know of 15 volumes alone that solely speak on the nature of God (whether in full or in part), and I'm pretty sure that all of those volumes are only a glimpse at His nature.

I wonder what David's response to that statement would be if it had been asked of him back in OT times. Would he have thought God to be simple?
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
Q. What to Say? "You study too much...Jesus is Simple..."

A: If Jesus and the Bible is so simple, then why would Paul need to tell Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth." Why would Paul have even written Timothy because all Timothy needed is the Holy Spirit and the Bible? Why should we even have preaching and Bibles Studies today?
 
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PreservedKillick

Puritan Board Freshman
There has always been something disingenuous to me about the argument against reading "books by men," as I ran into it quite a bit in my fundamentalist background. Nobody who argues this that I've seen has a problem with listening to an expository sermon or having a conversation in which brothers and sisters talk about the Bible. But if that conversation is printed in a book written by a dead person, it suddenly becomes human tradition and off limits. So I always respond that I'm participating in a conversation with fellow believers about scripture, only I'm making the more democratic, and extending participation in that conversation to Christians who have passed on.

---------- Post added at 08:53 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:52 AM ----------

I guess I should rephrase books "written by dead people." I don't believe in zombie theologians.
 

JoannaV

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is of course possible to become too enamoured with study for the sake of study rather than for spiritual growth.

However, in this case I would be more concerned with the critic's view on sin.
 

pianoman

Puritan Board Freshman
There has always been something disingenuous to me about the argument against reading "books by men," as I ran into it quite a bit in my fundamentalist background. Nobody who argues this that I've seen has a problem with listening to an expository sermon or having a conversation in which brothers and sisters talk about the Bible. But if that conversation is printed in a book written by a dead person, it suddenly becomes human tradition and off limits. So I always respond that I'm participating in a conversation with fellow believers about scripture, only I'm making the more democratic, and extending participation in that conversation to Christians who have passed on.


---------- Post added at 08:53 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:52 AM ----------

I guess I should rephrase books "written by dead people." I don't believe in zombie theologians.

Yes, I came from a twisted fundamentalist, non-denominational church controlled by an absolute monarchy. They(or he) never wanted you to "read books by men" but they wanted you to listen to their stories and prophecies and the little booklets they wrote.
 

JoannaV

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is true though that we must always use Scripture as our basis when discerning how to apply what we learn from other sources to Scripture. Sometimes the aversion to "books by men" is an overreaction to light-on-Scripture books that push man-centred doctrines on young Christians. (Of course, this is not the case in your examples.)
 

FenderPriest

Puritan Board Junior
I'd say go Spurgeon on him, by way of Paul. Preaching on 2 Timothy 4:13, "The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments," Spurgeon says the following:

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. . . . A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle!

He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books!

He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books!

He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books!

He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, ‘Give thyself unto reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.

Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, ‘Bring the books’—join in the cry.
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If people have a problem with studying and reading, and think it's bellow Christians, then they're above Paul, and just being silly and prideful. Com'on my friends... Even Jesus studied. I think most people are who say this sort of thing are attempting to be faithful and godly, but just being stupid and neglecting that brain God gave them. Or, they may not realize that different gifts are given to different people. I don't think all Christians need to read all the time - but I do think it's the claim of Scripture (and church history) that Christians should study God's Word and grow in their knowledge of Christ.

John Piper does some really helpful work on this area in his book Think. I think your friend would find it edifying and helpful - especially since Piper sticks really close to just expositing Scripture.
 

elnwood

Puritan Board Junior
Before you shoot back with a defensive, self-justifying response, you should take some time to evaluate if there isn't at least a grain of truth in what he says. Almost any criticism has enough truth to it that we can learn from. Do you spend much more time reading books about the Bible than reading the Bible itself, or spending time in prayer? Do you delight in the simple truth of the gospel? Do you value theological correctness in a person more than you value a person who lives in humble obedience to the Word?

In short, make sure you do some self-reflection. There have definitely been times in my life where I spent more time reading theology than was healthy, particularly early in my Christian walk when my spiritual maturity level was lagging behind my theological knowledge. During these times, I found myself very critical of others regarding theology, and would tend to think of God, Jesus and Christianity in more intellectual terms than in relational and spiritual terms. I could have used someone to remind me that Jesus, the gospel, etc. is simple, and that perhaps I shouldn't spend so much time reading the doctrines of men.
 
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