The Puzzle of Theology
To the uninitiated, serious study of the Bible and theology can be quite daunting. There are so many new terms, so many unfamiliar ideas, and so many cultural boundaries between us and the world of scripture that it is easy to feel exasperated and give up. As a pastor, I am eager to find fresh ways to encourage people to persevere in their study of scripture that they might deepen their walk with God in Christ through the Spirit.
One helpful avenue may be to think of the study of theology like working a jigsaw puzzle. You start with a lot of pieces that all have some things in common but are distinct nonetheless. You must begin to sort out the pieces and put them into piles of commonality. As you begin to find pieces that fit together, the picture becomes a little more clear. Sometimes you must rethink your strategy when certain pieces don’t fit where you had originally thought they might. Sometimes you work for hours on one little corner of the bigger picture. From time to time you even need to walk away for a breather before you return to tackle the task. All in all, it takes time, and the picture only becomes clearer after extended work and study.
This is similar to the study of theology and scripture. It takes time. The pieces need to be organized. The categories need to be set out. The picture becomes more clear through time and study. And this is true for all levels of study. The professional theologians are still putting the pieces together as well; they’ve merely been at work for longer than the rest of us. And as there are different levels of jigsaw puzzle mastery (from 500 pieces to 5,000 pieces and more) there are increasing levels of difficulty in serious Bible study.
The point is to realize that it won’t happen overnight. None of us are going to figure out the infinite mind of the almighty and triune God over the weekend, or in this life at all. It takes a lifetime of prayerful study to grow up into the fullness of the measure of Christ. And as we continue to work at it, the smaller pieces will fall into place and the bigger picture will gain increasing clarity. Is it not worth the diligence in order to think God’s revealed thoughts after him?