There are a lot of things that can be said to be requirements of study, especially in regard to systematic theology – or theology in general. In consulting sources, both personal and books, the general consideration is that a theology scholar should have a disciplined mind, a Bible, a knowledge of the original languages, reverence, teachableness, and other such things. While I can rejoice in some effort to get to the heart of it in things like reverence and teachableness, I also have cried multiple times in prayer over the absence of one key thing.
The requirement of studying any type or branch of theology is, and not simply should be, a hunger and thirst after righteousness. We need to have a thorough and incorrigible pursuit of knowing God, and not merely knowing about God, and knowing God as He in fact is. Anyone can get on a microphone and proclaim some ideas they have concerning God, concerning the Bible, and concerning theology. Anyone can publish a book. Anyone can go through school and now have a platform from which to speak and preach. The question is not about whether they are studious, nor about whether they are open to criticism, nor whether they have solid argumentation and reasoning, but rather whether what they are saying is conveying the truth and nothing but the truth. Are you actually speaking about God, or is this some idea that you have intellectually attained, simply because you were unwilling, or unable, to know God as He says of Himself?
When I was brand new to the faith, not even yet familiar with much of the Scripture, I went to multiple Bible studies a week, a couple prayer meetings a week, listened to multiple sermons everyday, prayed for 4-8 hours a day, and read mass amounts of Scripture. I literally had something within the realm of church or christianity that I was attending every day of the week, and I also made sure to pray and read the Bible for hours everyday whether I had school or not. My whole reason for such devotion was that I wanted to know God as He is. I wanted to know Him. I wanted to be with Him. I wanted to share all things with Him.
As an atheist, I knew nothing of God. I knew nothing of the Bible. When I was converted, I had, and still have, nothing but unreasonable desire to know Him, love Him, honor Him, and glorify Him. Because of this, I study theology – God Himself and His relationships with all things. I hunger and thirst after righteousness. I pant as the deer to see God, to know Him, and not simply know things about Him, my soul longing with fervor. I make haste to drink deeply from the wells of salvation.
This is the requirement of study – wanting to know God as He is, and to know His view, His thoughts, His opinions, His heart, and His mind. It isn’t about what I can get out of the Scripture, seeking blessings and promises for me and my daily life. Truly, I don’t care what the Bible says is mine if it is only for the sake of my benefit. What matters to me is what benefit and glory it brings to God, and whether it is according to His purposes and cosmic plan. What matters to me is seeing Him, and His plans, and His purposes, and to rejoice that He has given me opportunity to be a part of all of this.
We’re also not interested in new understanding that have been hidden in the past, and now we’ve come across the true way of perceiving. While I believe that as the Day draws near that God will continue to pour out understanding, it is not something that is altogether new or different. Even the prophets of the Old Testament built upon Leviticus and Deuteronomy (not to mention the stories of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua through Job). The apostles likewise didn’t declare a new thing, but rather expounded the interpretation of what was previously unknown, or misunderstood. The prophets and apostles have built upon the previous prophets and apostles – not to write something new that wasn’t before seen or comprehended, but to continue to further explain and express the details that have not until this time been revealed by the Father.
Such fads, conspiracies, and “secret things” that parade around in Christianity as if they are the new way of perceiving are anathema. When you find someone that continues to speak or preach, and you can’t understand plainly what they proclaim without buying their books, listening to all of their material, and learning new ways of thinking, you’re listening to a false teacher – or worse. Theology is not to be confused to “secret things”, and so called “deep secrets”.1 I understand the hidden things belong to the Lord,2 but these are not the same as what is expressed through much of the fads and fables of modern Christianity.
1 Revelation 2:24
2 Deuteronomy 29:29