I’ve been reading Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson lately and have definitely found this book both challenging and encouraging. Wilson’s desire to see the glory of God and beauty of Jesus manifest itself in the hearts of Christians is simply amazing. I wanted to share a piece of this book that really hit me hard, and really challenged me to think about how I study Scripture.
The day I first composed this chapter, I had a conversation with a new pastor friend who was concerned about some folks getting sucked into “that Reformed theology.” He didn’t know at the time that I’ve been sucked into “that Reformed theology” myself, but I knew what he meant, and for that reason I’m going to focus on theology of the Reformed type as a test case for what worshipful theology looks like, or doesn’t. I have discussed with other Calvinists just where the (well-earned) stereotype of the graceless Calvinist comes from. Shouldn’t belief in total depravity necessitate profound humility? Shouldn’t belief in unconditional election preclude a spirit of superiority? And yet there is a doctrinal arrogance infecting Calvinist Christianity. This culture then produces doctrinaires like Baum’s man of tin: squeaky and heartless.
A joyless Calvinist knows the mechanics of salvation (probably). But he is like a guy who knows the ins and outs of a car engine and how the car runs. He can take it apart and put it back together. He knows what each part does and how it does it. A graceless Calvinist is like a guy who knows how a car works but has never driven through the countryside in the warm spring air with the top down and the wind blowing through his hair.
Gospel wakefulness changes theological pursuit. It reorients knowledge to become the means to knowing God, not knowing stuff. It exults in God, not merely in thoughts about God. True theology galvanizes our affections toward God, not toward theology. It is possible, remember, to have all knowledge but merely be a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1). And one of the greatest cautions in my study is knowing that there is no theological point that a demon couldn’t assent to.7 A demon may be a Calvinist, an Arminian, a Baptist, a Wesleyan, a Presbyterian, a pretribulationist, an amillennialist, a credobaptist, a paedobaptist, a Zwinglian sacramentalist, or a Lutheran one. What a demon can’t be, however, is a worshiper of God. Real worshipers worship in spirit as well as truth (John 4:23–24).
What gospel wakefulness accomplishes, then, is the bringing of one’s heart to theological study, not just one’s mind.
Those of us that study Scripture and focus on learning Christian doctrine and Theology need to learn to slow down and pause long enough for the truths we learn to reach our hearts and really change us. We should be every bit as emotionally invested in the study of Scripture as we are mentally invested. Our desire in studying should be for our hearts to be conformed to the image of Christ, not just to have more answers to questions. Those who don’t study Scripture or focus on learning doctrine and Theology…please, start. For your sake, for the sake of the gospel, start today. It is absolutely that important.