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Bible, Culture, Millennials, Theology, Uncategorized

Theology Matters: Doctrine and Theology

October 7, 2016

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“Studying theology is just too hard. I’m not a scholar so it’s not for me.”

“Why do I need to know doctrine? I know God loves me and that’s good enough!”

“Theology is boring; I would rather read something more interesting.”

“Doctrine causes division.”

 

Have you ever had these thoughts? I know I have.

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My current reading has lead me to realize the importance of understanding doctrine and studying theology. I’ve been reading some books that emphasize this point: Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin and Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin.

Doctrine and theology are words that some in my generation (millennials) may find divisive, yet on the flip side, we see a resurgence in the desire for greater depth in faith from millennials. (Recent study that shows youth and young adults value substance over style.)

Theology is “the study of God.” Our theology is shaped by how we view God from what we’ve studied (or from our lack of study).

Doctrine, which originates from the Latin word for “teach” (docere), means “what is taught.” Doctrine also can be about what is taught on a specific topic—such as the doctrine of salvation, gifts, worship, etc.

Theology matters.

Theology matters because it is the study of God, and there is nothing more worthy of our thoughts than God.

There is nothing more worthy of our thoughts than God. Click To Tweet

But theology also matters because it shapes how we live. Whether it’s how we vote, if we get married, how we handle our finances, how we view our work—our understanding of who God is shapes every area, whether we realize it or not. The more accurately we know God through his Word, the more effectively we can live out lives of genuine worship of Him.

 

Applying our minds to study theology and doctrine is worth it.

I used to think that if studying the Bible felt forced, then I should stop and come back later when my heart was in it. I thought it seemed fake, like going through the motions or checking off a box by studying, when I didn’t “feel” like it. I’ve changed my mind.

Mark 12:30 speaks of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yet in our world where feelings often rule our hearts, it is easy to make excuses for applying our minds to thoughtful study. Instead, we want to sit through a worship service that makes us “feel” connected to God or listen a sermon that makes us “feel” good. While these are good things, we also must have the balance of knowing God with our minds. Emotions ebb and flow, and in the moments or seasons when I don’t “feel” God near me, my world can be stabilized by the truths of what I know of God’s character—regardless of how I feel.

 

Transformation moves from the mind to the heart.

As Jen Wilkin helpfully says, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

In her book Women of the Word, Wilkin writes of the scientific community’s study of the mind-before-heart connection. When asked how to get more pleasure out of life, Dr. Paul Bloom of Yale University answered, “Study.”
A practical example of his point came from my love of coffee. I don’t enjoy coffee more by gulping down gallons and gallons of it. The enjoyment of coffee can be greater felt when I learn about coffee—how to appreciate it, recognize its distinct flavors, the different roasts, etc. Jen Wilkin puts it this way in her book:

Bloom has found that pleasure results from gaining knowledge about the object of our pleasure, not, as we might assume, from merely experiencing it over and over. Specifically, our pleasure increases in something when we learn its history, origin, and deeper nature . . . Finding greater pleasure in God will not result from pursuing more experiences of him, but from knowing him better. (p. 31)

 

Growing in theological and doctrinal understanding is a lifelong process. Take it in steps that are do-able for you. The best way to grow in these areas is to get into the Bible. Beyond reading the Bible, I find it helpful to read others’ writings about their study of the Bible or various areas of doctrine.

 

I’ve written a number of posts about how I engage in the Bible, and there are a lot of great resources that I link to in these previous posts. Maybe you’ll find something there to help you get started.

-LM

Here are the results of my twitter poll on Theology and Doctrine:

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Bible, Culture, Family, Millennials, Theology

Millennials and Marriage

August 31, 2016

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My little sister, Danielle, just got married. I have four younger sisters, and she is the first to join me in the married club. Danielle is one of my best friends, and I absolutely love walking with her through the different seasons of life. Now that will include walking with her in this new, exciting chapter in her life! She is 23, and she and Caleb have a cute little place to call their own. Yet the latest research shows that they are not the norm.

Why are millennials (18-34 year olds) more likely to be living with their parents than living with a spouse? A 2014 Pew Research report noted that for the first time in American history since 1880, young adults are more likely to be living with parents than living with a spouse or cohabitating with a partner. The Pew report points to a few reasons why this might be so:

  1. The postponement of marriage until later in their twenties (or total retreat from marriage).
  2. Lower employment rates among young people, and increasingly lower wages (after inflation) for young men when compared to 1970.
  3. Higher college enrollment since the Great Recession (late 2000s to early 2010s) led to more young adults living at home.

Although all of these reasons are suggested as causes for this phenomenon, the report emphasizes the delay of marriage as the leading cause, over and above the lower employment rates and higher college attendance factors.

Having lived in two U.S. cities that vary culturally – Oklahoma City and New York City – I have seen both ends of the spectrum when it comes to marriage age. New York is one of the oldest-marrying states, with the average marriage age being 28.8 for women and 30.3 for men. The only location with an older-marrying age is Washington, DC. In contrast, Oklahoma is one of the youngest-marrying states, with the average marriage age being 24.8 for women and 26.3 for men. Only Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming have a younger-marrying age.

I’ve heard a lot of people, too, that support the idea of marrying at an older age. Their logic is understandable: enjoy singleness, be independent and free while you can, “find yourself” before you settle down, focus on your career first, etc. But what about doing these things alongside a spouse? It may take longer, because there inevitably needs to be time factored into your schedule to work on the marriage – but I also think there is great power in partnering.

Our culture sees individual autonomy as the highest good. Yet while this does keep some people from having a positive view of marriage as the gift that it is, I want to acknowledge that there are also those who are led to remain single or desire to be married but haven’t found the right person yet. To those that are single, your singleness does not mean that you are “incomplete,” or waiting for “real adulthood” to begin. Singleness should be valued. God uses single people to teach others valuable lessons as well. But I want to challenge those of us in the millennial generation that may delay marriage because of the cultural notion that individual autonomy should be valued over collaboration.

I recently read an article where Jeannie Gaffigan, wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan, was being interviewed. She points out that culture subliminally tells us that we have to be 100% on our own – independent and autonomous. But independence can be overrated. It is not weak to be joined up with someone – whether a spouse or even a team. We can accomplish more in a team than we can on our own. The same goes for marriage. When you are teamed up with someone, it may take a little longer to get where you want to be, but in the end you can go farther.

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I was younger than the average Oklahoman when I got married at 21 in 2009, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Marriage has taught me a lot over the years. It has shown me more of my selfishness than anything else in my life thus far, and I value those lessons. (I hear this happens all over again when you have kids– but I’m not there yet!) It has also taught me how to work with someone who has opposite strengths, and this has allowed me to grow in areas where I am weak. I also have built-in accountability, which grows my character. All of these things have been beneficial for me in other areas of life and in my work.

Mostly what I am grateful for is the way that I’ve learned more about the gospel through marriage. Marriage is not for my happiness, but for my holiness. My husband has seen my worst moments, and I have seen his. No one can cause more pain than those closest to you, and in the times where I have wronged Michael, he has showed me grace and forgiveness. And likewise, as he has wronged me, I have had the chance to practice forgiveness for him. I can have the strength to forgive because I know that I have been forgiven exponentially more through Jesus Christ’s (Colossians 2:12-13; 3:12-17; 1 John 4:7-12, 19-21).

Marriage was created by God and is for our good. Let’s not allow culture to fool us into de-valuing this gift.

 

-LM

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

More pics from the magical night can be found on my instagram @laurenamcafee!