A layman with fruit has more credibility than a theologian without grace.
I have a deep passion for theology – I love dwelling in the deep things of God and digging in the mines of inquiry. John Milton captures my perception of theological studies well, it is “Beholding the bright countenance of truth in the quiet and still air of delightful studies.”
I love theology because I love God and desire a deeper understanding, passion, and radiance of the Gospel in my life, and yet, at times I have found myself using theological knowledge as a sword instead of a hammer. A way to cut instead of build. A means to destroy instead of create. With that I find that there are no bounds to the pride of the flesh for it corrupts even the rich sacred studies of God and turns them into a means of exhibiting the illusion of valid hubris.
Theology is lovely because its subject is our most wonderful God, but if theology doesn’t reach the heart and give birth to fruit leading us to to love God and our neighbor, we will have found ourselves participating in vain exercises of the mind. Thomas à Kempis says, “What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”
Let us heed the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 – you can have all knowledge but without love it is vanity, an annoying hum in the beholder of your mighty mind. As Augustine comments then, “Use your knowledge as a sort of tool to build the edifice of charity, which remains forever, even when “knowledge passes away.” For knowledge which is used to promote love is useful, but in itself and separated from love it turns out to be not only useless but even harmful.”
May I be a theologian of grace first and foremost.