I really do believe that the best opportunity any human being has is this:
28 Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς. 29 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν· 30 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν.
Come to me all who are weary and weighed down and I will grant it that you should rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves and learn from me , because I am meek and humble hearted, then you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is good and my burden is bearable. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Following Jesus, in the sense outlined here is much easier, in the long run, than ascribing to various isms, ologies, and ians. This is the same Jesus who says to do very hard things, but the rest offered in the kingdom is worth it.
But I’m not talking about the difficulties of following Jesus. I am talking about another set of difficulties. Following Jesus in a day to day, mystical, communal sense has intellectual difficulties but, by and large, is simple. Pray daily, stay away from evil, treat others with dignity, take the Supper with God’s people often, hear the Scripture read and explained often, turn your thoughts hourly toward Jesus, his Spirit, and his Father, don’t correct people lightly, forgive those who ask you to, don’t buy frivolous stuff, and most of all remember that God is gracious and good and that all of your salvation is a free gift. This seems to summarize the simplest aspects of the Christian life that are contained in the New Testament.
But, the brain work of determining which of our beliefs are from Jesus and his apostles, how metaphysics interacts with revelation, how ancient anthropology gives us a clearer insight into Scripture, etc are all, in my mind, very important. But, those habits of thought are also not necessarily helpful for the average Christian who does not work with people hostile to the gospel or who does not have to apply the gospel to the lives of several dozen people on a weekly basis like a pastor or Sunday school teacher.
I do think that studying the Scripture in an academic fashion is important for everybody who can. It certainly is not necessary in the way that knowing the basics of the gospel of Jesus is necessary. Similarly, studying theology is something important for everybody who can do it. I suppose the rule in all things is this:”…we know that everybody has knowledge. Knowledge arrogates, but love builds up. If any supposed that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know, but if anybody loves God, this one is known by him (1 Corinthians 8:1b-3 Geoff Translation).” If your studying gives you A) knowledge that can improve your lot and that of your neighbor B) greater love for God C) greater love for others then stick with it. If it creates arrogance, frustration with people who don’t study the same stuff, or a mean spirit then you should probably stop studying at the academic level altogether for a while and simply memorize important passages of the New Testament and put them into practice.
Anyway the academic study of Scripture and theology bears great fruits for those who are called to the task by pious curiosity (to add a deeper dimension to discipleship), position (pastor/teacher), or need (evangelist, apologist). But going beyond certain basics when you cannot yet, by practice, determine the difference between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14) is dangerous.
But, as I say all of this, I still think about several evangelical myths that, though they may not be ultimately deadly to faith are nevertheless false and perhaps laughable to many who give the issue a modicum of thought.
Is it possible that we have a tendency to unnecessarily complicate certain things and an equally silly tendency to over simplify certain other things?