Knowing God: The Study of God

So I'm reading J.I. Packer's "Knowing God", and a friend of mine just challenged me today to start sharing more of what I'm reading... so here goes. Maybe it will be a bit heady in some places, and overly vulnerable in others, but perhaps my sharing will lure you into what, by all accounts, is an amazingly good book.

"If we pursue theological education for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it."
~J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.22

God, keep me from this!

A mom of ten that I respect a great deal has a certain dislike for theology. She rightly points out that it often leads to fighting (which I, too, dislike). And she gets her "theology" (knowledge of God) from her multiple passes through the Word of God each year. She listens to the Bible on CD throughout the day, and she keeps her Bible open on her kitchen counter and reads as she's going about life.

And I try to carry out some of these same principles in our home, too, so that I'm taking in great amounts of Scripture to learn of the character of God.

One of the most helpful things I've done recently is to listen repeatedly to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) on audio (through iTunes-- I love it! I can make my daily "list" of things to listen to and not have to fuss with it throughout the day). This same mom of ten actually recommended this as well. She said a great way to learn about God as a Father (and to have an idea of how God parented the Israelites when they were a young nation) is to listen to the Pentateuch over and over again, with that question in mind. "How did God "father" them?" And it's true. I've learned so much about God as Father (and gained even more solid footing in biblical discipline of my children) by doing this.

At the same time, though, I believe that our grasp of Scripture and our knowledge of God (not just about Him, but knowing HIM) can be enhanced and rightly shaped by reading mature, thoughtful, proven theological books, sermons, and other writings. I sincerely hope that, while spurred on by the "great books" (even, and perhaps I should say "especially" by the great theological books) of Christian faith, my theology will come from the Word of God and be learned with a humble spirit. That is my hope and prayer.

"Knowledge puffs up... the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know." ~1 Corinthians 8:1-2


Mrs said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I love studying theology, but when it begins to turn into arguments I start feeling anxious and worried and I hate that. I especially hate that while brilliant scholars for CENTURIES have not been able to agree, there are many who think they have all the right answers and refuse to back down or "agree to disagree."

One thing that DOES happen though, is it sends me back to the gospel, which is the core where most ALL agree! Whew!

Chrysanthemama said...

Wow, thank you for the great post. What better instructor do we have than God? It's amazing the amount of money we shell out for self-help and instructional books, when really the only book we need is, The Book!

Mrs. Sewell (Professional Wife and SAHM) said...


Thanks so much for this post and what great ideas you have given for learning God's character.

God Bless
Crystal <><

Hannah (for the rest of us) said...

Theology IS a worthy study--the most noble, since God is the ultimate Reality. If we consider biology, astronomy or medicine as worth pursuing, then theology all the more so. The problem comes when, as you pointed out, it puffs us up and makes us proud. Lord willing, the study of theology and the hugeness of God makes us feel our finite minds, our inadequacies, and our smallness. If it makes us feel that we've "figured God out" then we are in danger. And if it makes us combative, then God help us! Because pride goes before a fall!

Anonymous said...

Breasts yesterday and theology today! I love you Jess!

You gave me some great ideas. I never thought about just keeping my bible open so I can read it as I go about my day.

I am so glad you are blogging again!


:..Rebekah..: said...

I went through a time in my life when I was reading everything about theology that I could get my hands on. I wanted to understand as much as I could. After a few years of this, I realized that I had not been seeking to feed and strengthen my faith nearly as much as I had been seeking to feed my mind. My faith had actually become very weak. After seeing this, I changed directions. I set aside the theology books for awhile and sought out things that would draw me closer to Him and help to increase my faith. Although, I do agree that there are times when our understanding can be greatly enhanced by reading good theological works as you said (now I read those things as the Lord leads). But, I realized that faith is what pleases God, not a perfect understanding of all things theological. A person can have alot of head knowledge, but still be empty and not have a life-giving relationship with the Lord. I didn't want that to be me. Great post! I appreciate your balance on the issue, and I enjoyed reading about your friend who is a mom of 10. Thanks and God bless!

Catherine R. said...

I have one of those annoying bibles that won't stay open, the binding is too tight, but that's a good idea.

I have wondered to what extent it's necessary for us to be theologically educated. So many details to cause conflict over, but then again lots of people miss the basics. Something to think about.

Johanna said...

That is a book I have thought about reading over and over. It is so hard for me to read anything that is non-fiction, though. I have branched out first by reading non-fiction historical books from time periods I am interested in. Perhaps I will branch out further and get some of these classic Christian books under my belt! I am sure I could stand to learn much, much more than I know.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! Thank you for this and for ideas on how we can feast on the Word throughout the day even though we may have little ones running around the house! Very encouraging!

Domestikate said...

I've been thinking about this today and realized I have Knowing God on my bookshelf and never read it. Hmmmm? I guess I should put it next on my reading list.