I was immediately attracted to theology because I’m a born egg-head.
For me the danger of my attraction to theology is in the story of Nadab and Abihu.
I’ve known from the moment I first started reading the New Testament that – for me – it’s easier to accept the idea of eternal salvation with my head than it is to accept God’s gift to me, personally, of actual salvation through His Son Jesus Christ with my heart.
In fact I have come to see my own story of coming to Jesus as being a piece of some critical personal instruction from the Holy Spirit.
I saw something I knew I wanted – a personal relationship with God – in the lives of a number of Christians I knew, and one person in particular who was the catalyst for my own transformation into a Christ-follower. I realized that the relationship he had with God must have something to do with Jesus, so I wanted to learn more about Jesus … I wanted to learn what he knew that I didn’t know that enabled him to have the kind of relationship with God that I longed for. So one day after a particularly salient, though short, conversation I started reading the New Testament.
In retrospect it’s almost funny – on an intellectual level I believed everything I was reading in the New Testament from the moment I first read it. The story was awesome and captivating. I couldn’t put it down. And it moved me as absolute Truth right from the start. I knew almost right away where I was heading … I knew that I was on my way to becoming a Christian myself.
But that was what I knew in my head. My heart took about five months longer to catch up with my head. When I look back at my own journey to Christ there are parts of it that almost seem laughable. I knew I could search the Internet and find a Sinner’s Prayer – only a few sentences long – on a web page that said if I prayed that prayer out loud that’s all it would take to become a Christian. I guess that’s the cyber version of an altar call.
I did think about that, probably more times than I like to admit. But I didn’t do it. I now believe the Holy Spirit was already at my side making sure I didn’t fall off the path to Jesus that I was already on. I somehow just knew that it wasn’t a verbal act of prayer that would take me that final mile. I needed a transformation in my heart. I needed my heart to be just as firmly convinced as my head before I could become a Christian. That part – my heart catching up to my head – seemed like it took forever, and was very frustrating. I didn’t know how to get my heart to do that. (Heh heh, obviously! Nobody ever saved themself. Only God can save.)
That finally did happen, and it was totally amazing when it did.
But I look back on that experience and I think God was already teaching me something in the process. I think He was teaching me that I always need to be aware of my own tendency for my head and my heart to be out of sync. In fact I think that’s one of the most important things He wants me to learn in my time on Earth – to narrow that gap between my head and my soul.
So it is in light of that, that I cautiously indulge my interest in theology. I keep noticing myself repeating that very mistake — I get intellectually excited about, and steeped in, various issues of theology … and as I’m doing that I find myself “living in my head” (a worldly enjoyment) but actually drifting away from God.
You know how you sometimes kind of startle awake just when you’re falling asleep — you feel like you’re literally falling and physically startle — which then wakes you up, so you have to start over with falling asleep (once your adrenalin level returns to normal)?
That’s kind of what my experience of studying theology is like. I’ll be going along getting worldly pleasure out of exercising my brain on the study of theology, and suddenly I realize that I miss feeling close to God, and haven’t spent enough time with Him for a while. That causes me to startle – just like when you jump out of your skin while falling asleep – and I need to remind myself again that theology doesn’t exist as a carnival ride for my pleasure-seeking worldly brain. It isn’t any better than drinking or gambling or any other worldly sin if God isn’t front and center for both my head and my heart.
And that brings me back to Nadab and Abihu. God made it clear: He really doesn’t like that. He burnt Nadab and Abihu to a crisp right on the spot for that particular sin.
I’m not saying that theology is a bad thing. I think its a very necessary thing. But it’s how I go about studying it that can be dangerous. It needs to glorify God, not my own worldly pleasure-seeking ways.
I’m profoundly grateful to the Holy Spirit for nudging me back on track when I start to stray. Praise God and thank You Jesus!
And never forget that even God’s holiness can be dangerous to those who are approaching Him in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.