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From Joe Thorn’s interview with Ray Ortlund:

What advice would you give to the average Christian who loves Jesus and the church, but needs to grow theologically?

Here's one way to jump in. Pull some friends together, everybody buy a copy of Driscoll and Breshears’ Doctrine, and work through it together. Check out the small group suggestions on pages 437-450. Read it slowly. Embrace the difficulty. Look up every word you don't understand. Mark up your copy with questions and highlights. Get mad if you have to. But pray to God for clarity, and he'll give it. As you read, keep checking it against the Bible, examine what your friends say too, and don't let go until you really know what you believe. You will never be the same again.


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9 thoughts on “Practical Counsel for Growing Theologically”

  1. Brad says:

    “What advice would you give to the average Christian who loves Jesus and the church, but needs to grow theologically?”

    I don’t mean to be flip, but first and foremost has to be: Read your Bible. Look, books and instruction is invaluable but secondary. Get on your knees, ask God to open your mind and heart to his Word and then read it – always.

  2. Mike says:

    You bring up a vital question. When the church teaches theology to our teachers, we turn to books such as Grudem… So Brad, would you say we should turn from this and instead sit-down with the book of Romans / Eph. as the primary training for future teachers or something along those line to teach systematic theology?

  3. Marcus says:

    I don’t think that Romans or Ephesians are systematic theology. We need to recognize that they too, no less than Galatians are situational letters. They may be more systematic at points, but they certainly wouldn’t replace a good systematic theology text. With that said, I think that the solution is both/and. Spend more time in Scripture and more time studying secondary literature! Secondary literature *can* do wonders to help open up the word of God.

  4. Glenn says:

    It isn’t either/or; it is of course both. God has gifted certain individuals to open up and elucidate scripture for all those who are truly interested.

    If someone is bothered about going deeper then you will always find (if they have access in the first place) that they are readers of the Bible.

    I have found over the years that those who are serious start with the Bible, find something they struggle to understand, turn to gifted teachers, take what has been presented back to the Bible (being a good Berean is essential) and this is a process that goes on until we go to glory. If you are serious.

  5. Mike says:

    Glen and Marcus, I completely agree with you two. My statement about Rom/Eph. was tongue in check as I was playing devil’s advocate simply to engage in conversation. However, I do think that the church has turned to secondary sources more then we should, both past and present. I find myself doing this. Especially in light of being part of discipleship team that utilizes secondary sources for almost every class.

  6. Daniel says:

    Start with Genesis.

    The NT epistles were not only situational but written to established Churches that had already been taught the basics, and among the most basic of the basics were the OT. That is clear because pretty much all the epistles assume a thorough familiarity with the OT.

  7. First, you have to WANT it. Too many Christians I know are content to live in ignorance. They may say things like “I’m no [fill in the blank with your favorite theologian], so I’ll never understand these things.” The truth is that the revelation of God does not require great intelligence or a life of scholarly pursuits in order to “get it”. You don’t have to get to the point where you are debating the nuances of the Greek and Hebrew texts in determining whether you are a supra- or infra- lapsarian. Spiritual maturity, and understanding the deepest aspects of who God is on any level, requires submission to his truth and a desire to know what that truth truly is. It requires being satisfied only in Christ and never fully satisfied with your current understanding of him.

    There are a number of discipleship tools available. I haven’t found any that cover everything adequately. Most are either propositional or devotion, but rarely both. None of them recognize a need to continue discipleship beyond knowing a few basics. I suggest that we need people to take up the task of ongoing one-on-one discipleship in the local church.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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