What do snakes and theology have in common?

Bro Jason made mention tonight about going deep [in Bible study] and the view that some folks think that digging deeper is only for theologians or theologian wannabes.

R. C. Sproul rightly says:

Many people react negatively to the word theology, believing that it involves dry, fruitless arguments about minute points of doctrine. Yet as Dr. R.C. Sproul argues, everyone is a theologian. Any time we think about a teaching of the Bible and strive to understand it, we are engaging in theology. Therefore, it is important that we put the Bible’s varied teachings together in a systematic fashion, using proper, time-tested methods of interpretation so as to arrive at a theology that is founded on truth.

To state it another way, the only way you are not doing theology is if you are NOT studying your bible.  And we know all true born again Christians desire to study and know their savior better from the place where He has revealed Himself – the BIBLE.  Therefore, all Christians are theologians.  Some are just doing it better than others.

Here is a real world example for you from Jon Bloom at Desiring God:

On February 15, Jamie Coots, pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle in Middlesboro, Kentucky, and co-star of National Geographic’s reality show Snake Salvation, died from snakebite to the hand.

Snake handling as a form of worship is practiced by a small number of churches mostly in the rural southeastern United States. It started 100 years ago with an illiterate preacher in Tennessee who interpreted Mark 16:18 as a commandment from God.

They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:18, KJV)

Besides the fact that some of the earliest manuscripts don’t even include Mark 16:9–20, the problem with Coots’s understanding is that Mark 16:18 is not a commandment. It describes signs that “will accompany those who believe” (verse 17). What the author most likely had in mind were experiences such as Paul’s in Acts 28:3–6, when he was unexpectedly bitten by a poisonous serpent and suffered no ill effects.  Signs and wonders experienced by the Apostles during the building of the New Testament church to authenticate their authority.  Signs and wonders that ended with the age of the apostles.

Jamie Coots was sincere. But sincerity will not protect us from peril if we are sincerely wrong. Mark 16:18 does not instruct, nor does the New Testament anywhere enjoin, believers to handle poisonous serpents in worship services as proof of their faith. Coots’ devout convictions were based on a text he misread. He had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). And his end was sad.  Bad theology!

Theology is the systematic and rational study of God’s word.  Understanding the immediate context of a passage and viewing it through the lens of the whole counsel of scripture will guard you from tragic error.   Good study habits, good resources from mainstream authors and wise counsel from mature Christians also are God’s gifts of providence to help us.

Don’t be a bad theologian!

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