Studying Theology as a Servant of Christ -- By: John M. Frame

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 11:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: Studying Theology as a Servant of Christ
Author: John M. Frame

Studying Theology as a Servant of Christ

John M. Frame

After thirty-two years of seminary teaching, I may be pardoned for having accumulated a lot of grandfatherly advice for my theological students, especially for those who are beginning their course of study. Some of it may be helpful to wider group of church leaders who must deal with theology as a normal part of their leadership in a particular church.

There are a lot of perils in the road toward ministry. Some students expect, at least subconsciously, that theological study is like a summer camp “mountaintop experience,” in which everything seems to motivate you almost effortlessly toward spiritual growth. Students with that romantic notion tend to be gravely disappointed, for they discover that theological study can be a major spiritual trial. Much about seminary can be a great blessing, but make no mistake: Satan is particularly interested in attacking those who are studying God’s Word intensely. And in addition to financial difficulties, intellectual problems, and juggling responsibilities of family, study, church and job, there is the problem of the sin within your own heart.

So it’s important to get started with a good orientation, to which end I hope I may be of some help. Of course there is no guarantee that reading this paper will keep you out of danger. I am very much aware of my inadequacies as a theological

pastor. I’ve given this advice to many students, and I’ve been dismayed and humbled to see how many of them have fallen into the precise errors I’ve warned them about. And even if I were a perfect teacher, that wouldn’t be enough. The sin within us leads us to resist even the best, and best-formulated, spiritual counsel (see Proverbs 1:20–33, and many other passages in Proverbs). There is a biblical place for teachers and counselors, but, in the end, only God, by his Word and Spirit, can make us obey; only he can open our ears and hearts to the counsel he provides us. I can only pray that the Lord himself will work through this essay, together with the counsel of other pastors and teachers, to set you on a wise course.

Theology Is A Spiritual Task

The term theology scares people. It sounds formidable, esoteric, abstract, technical. Further, many of us have suspicions about the discipline—that it is perhaps irrelevant to our walk before God, or, even worse, a sort of human presumption. How can we dare to think of “grasping” the living Word of God and stuffing it into an intellectual system? Thus was I warned about theology during my youth; and, although I now think the objections to it can be answered,...

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