I’m wordy, and admire those with the skill of condensing a point down to a sentence or two. (I’m not good at Twitter!) Here are some statements that I recently came across and appreciated:
Theology without practice is mute. Practice without theology is blind. – Zachary Lee
In doing the work of theology, you have an obligation to make a case for what you advocate by the example of your life. – Miguel Labrador
The Puritans sought to “reduce to practice” (their own phrase) all that God taught them. They sought to apply their theology to every branch of life. (noted from JI Packer’s book A Quest for Godliness, the Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.)
“Reduce to practice” condenses this idea down to a phrase!
This reminded me of a professor with whom I took several theology classes. Often a paper on a doctrinal or theological issue would also have to have a “so what?” section. So you have defended the penal substitutionary atonement or clarified your ecclesiological beliefs (study of the church)…but so what? How will this affect how you live? How will this influence how you do Christian ministry? In other words, how will you reduce it to practice? Theology should ultimately be practical to life, and not theoretical only.
I remember having to write a 20 page academic paper defending my personal views on eschatology (eschatology being the study of “end times” or future things), and then having to write a separate 5 to 7 page “so what” paper of a more personal nature.
I think we all need a reminder that our beliefs should influence how we live, but those with an academic bent need to keep on special guard in this area. We can get so caught up in learning that we miss the point. Studying the great God of the universe should be humbling, yet it can also fill us with pride and lead us away from God.
I bet at some point in your Christan life you’ve known a believer with incredible knowledge of Christianty, yet who was also a real butt-head (pardon my language) and quite deficient in the fruit of the Spirit. And paradoxically known a more “simple” believer who just overflowed with love for God and other people. I’ll close with this excerpt from JI Packer’s book Knowing God.
If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it…We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God.