A recent nationwide study done by Barna found 49 percent of self-identified Christians believe the Holy Spirit to be a symbol of God’s power, rather than a living entity of the triune God-head.
Another 20 percent mistakenly believe that Jesus Christ sinned during his earthly ministry (“Most Christians Put Christianity on the Shelf”).
Rudimentary doctrines are misunderstood, leaving the Christian in an ignorant position. However, we are not alone.
During the beginning of the Christian church, many struggled with understanding the importance of theology as well. Hebrews 5:11-12 states, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing, for though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food." Hebrews explains the people have become passive in learning more advanced principles of the Christian faith and have remained stagnant. As a result, they must return to their elementary doctrines.
We see this same shortcoming from Hebrews in today’s Christian culture: a growing misconception that milk (basic doctrines) is the only substance a Christian needs, and even fundamental doctrines are misunderstood.
This is a result of the Christian remaining passive in their pursuit of knowing God and seeking His face because they fail to understand the significance of it. In my experience, Christians often avoid difficult theological question, saying that we as Christians are not supposed to have disagreements or that these discussions are pointless because they already love Jesus.
While loving Christ is of the utmost importance, it should not result in deterring the study and understanding of God. After all, should not the love of Christ inspire the Christian to learn what the Scriptures teach (doctrine) about His person and work?
The pursuit of understanding God is theology, hence, it is far from pointless. Christians should have a great yearning to know their Lord through reading the Bible and the comprehension of theological doctrines. In J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, he explains the importance of a theological doctrine:
“When you stand on top of Mt. Snowdon in Wales, you see the whole of Snowdonia spread out around you, and you have a wider view. Similarly, when you are on top of the truth of propitiation, you can see the entire Bible in perspective, and you are in a position to take the measure of vital matters which cannot be grasped in any other terms” (191).
While Packer is speaking of a specific theological doctrine, this analogy can be applied to the concept of learning theology. Packer explains that a higher understanding of doctrine allows for the Christian to have a greater perspective, which allows for spiritual growth, as well as greater love for Christ.
Theological doctrines are an indispensable aspect of the Christian faith and every Christian should actively pursue the understanding of theology with the proper motivations, in order that, it can be applied to their spiritual growth.
Christians have a commission to move past the justifying truth of the cross and move towards the sanctifying truths of the knowledge of God, through consideration and application of theology that overwhelms the finite with the infinite.