Last night I had one of the most coherent dreams I've ever dreamed. In my dream, I accurately and thoroughly described the five tenents of Calvinism (TULIP) to three misguided strangers at the park. Actually, I woke up at the end of Limited Atonement, so I didn't actually make it to Perseverance of the Saints, but I went into great depth with the first three and spoke quickly about the fourth (for there isn't much to say about it, even though it is the most disputed of the five, I would think.)
In the dream, I explained that it was important to have a Biblical understanding of God. I believe it is incredibly important to study Scriptures in order to discover Truth. It is right to be always reforming.
I perhaps mispoke the other day to a friend in this regard, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of studying Scripture for knowledge and understanding. We are all impressed with the importance of Scripture for the sake of getting to know God and having closer communion with him, for it is the way God has chosen to speak to us. This is true, indeed, and greatly important. But why aren't we encouraged to study the Bible to actually learn about God, to actually get to know Him? I told a friend, who had said he feels greatly tested in his faith when speaking to another friend, that it wasn't until I really started to study Scripture to see what it actually says that I really felt secure in my faith. After I said it, I felt it was the wrong thing to say at the time, but it is true. Before then, I just sort of knew what I'd learned in church about Jesus and the Bible. When someone had a difficult question, I wasn't sure how to answer it, and I would stumble. It wasn't until I started really studying it for myself that I began to understand who God really is (and I'm sorry, my friends, He isn't pink and fluffy and soft as a cloud like we've been taught).
My point is, is it correct to study the Bible for knowledge's sake? I believe it is. Look at Paul. He encourages us to study things for ourselves (like the Bereans of Thessalonica who went home and researched what Paul said, because they weren't going to just take his word for it.) He tells us not to feed on milk forever but to begin feeding on solid food (Heb 5:12-14). I think it is right for all of us, at whatever time in our life is appropriate, to begin feeding on the meat of God's Word.
However, there seems to be a disadvantage to this. My husband and I have often discussed the dichotomy between the relationship side of Christianity and the knowledge side. It is hard to balance the two. We mustn't forget in our studying that this faith is real and alive. Jesus desires a real live relationship with us that must thrive. Feelings are real, and important. Yet, they are not the most important to our spiritual growth. Far from it. If we only rely on the feelings we get from our faith, we are stumbling into dangerous territory. We can even (easily) stumble into heresy. We must follow up our feelings with what is written in God's Word to ensure that what we are feeling is actually genuine, is actually the Holy Spirit, and not our own deceitful hearts. Sadly, too many evangelists and pastors and teachers rely far too greatly on what they feel and what they sense, rather than what God has revealed to us in His Holy Scripture.
Here's an example of what I believe to be a good balance of these two important aspects of Christianity. Sunday, a man told us about a time when he was in church about to preach, and he was waiting for a couple to show up that he had expected to come that day. They did not arrive, but he noticed two strangers come in, and suddenly he felt God say to him, "I will build my Church." Now--let me interject. Had he stopped here, this would have been a mistake. We often "feel" things like this; how do we know if it is just our minds thinking, or the Holy Spirit? This is how: He said he then when home and started searching Scripture to see if this was true. He read Acts and began to see that, indeed, it was the Holy Spirit who led the apostles to different places and the Holy Spirit that built the Church. After this, he believed it was the Holy Spirit showing him that it is not us who builds the Church, but God. We have one agenda, but God's will prevail.
Feelings lead us astray. Feelings tell us that God said this and God said that. Feelings tell us God says things far from what He would ever actually say. Now, I've probably gone on long enough now. So, if you take anything away with you from this post, which I have written so haphazardly, consider the importance of knowing what you believe and why. Is it Sciptural or is it something that you've learned from someone? Is it Scripture or is it something you feel is true? If you are certain it is Scriptural, seek it out. Find the Scriptures that prove it. Be able to back yourself up, even if it is just to yourself, just to keep you from stumbling. "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path," says Psalm 119:105. It is also the sword (Eph 6:17) to fight anyone/thing that may try to destroy your faith. I'm not saying everyone is meant to be a theologian, for that is not true. Just don't feed on milk forever. The character of God is infinite; it is exciting and good for us to learn all we can while on this earth.
(To begin your new search into seeing if this is true, my friend Jonathan points out Psalm 1 in defense of this argument.)