A. W. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy is a classic in Christian theology. For the young Christian, this text can make the queen of the sciences seem down to earth. For the advanced student of theology, it can serve as a refreshing reminder of the merits of Christian thinking. At the beginning of the book, Tozer pens incredibly simple, yet profound words in classic Tozer style, “What comes in our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” How we think about the Creator of all that is seen and unseen is the determining factor about who we are as humans. The question of God seems very simple, yet at times it can seem like such a daunting task to grow in knowledge of the holy. Where then do we start this all-important process? We start in the church. A recent experience of mine solidifies this idea.
I am a graduate of Biola University where I studied formally the disciplines of philosophy and theology. I have finished a year of graduate school in the same subjects. Yet none of those classroom experiences compare to the education I went through this week with my Church Elder. Eating lunch with three other church members and one of our elders, we were discussing discipleship and how it fits into the creation mandate. As we approached Saint Paul’s words in Colossians, I began to think about the difference between Christ the Son and God the Father, while still thinking about the trinity. My elder, also named Mark, wanted us to see the Son as being present and active in the Creation story of Genesis. I raised the question, “How can Jesus be thought of as the one who creates, if the Son is a different person from the Father?” For the next few minutes, my elder Mark and I went back and forth, citing Scripture and figuring out theological ideas. “It says in Colossians 1:16, ‘By him all things were made,” said Mark. He wanted to make sure I didn’t deny Christ at the beginning. My struggle was not with the idea that the passage was about Christ, as we both agreed, but about the nature of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. We went back to the age-old discussion that the ancient Church engaged in about 1700 years ago in Constantinople.
Eventually, we both maintained our commitments to the Council of Chalcedon, and found our differences to be semantic. Reflecting upon the process, I must say that I have not had such an experience in any classroom setting in all my time studying theology. The Church cannot assume that academies and colleges will teach theology effectively. Even if they do so, the Church cannot shirk the responsibility of teaching theology. If God’s people want to pass on our understanding of who God is, we have to do within the Church walls first, else we suffer the answer, “nothing,” when confronted with the question of what comes in our mind when we think of God.