“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
Everyone now a days is a Theologian. If you ask any random person on the street what they think about God, they will almost certainly have an answer for you. Today though, we are going to be talking about how to be a good Theologian. This theme is drawn from Luther’s method of studying theology, which he in turn drew from Psalm 119. Luther breaks it down for us into three relatively simple steps: Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio, or Prayer, Meditation, Suffering.
Let’s start with Prayer. For Luther, prayer was almost never just folding his hands, closing his eyes, and seeing what came out of his mouth. If you’ve ever read anything by Luther, you probably realize that wouldn’t be Luther’s best plan of action for addressing the One who dwelt in the Holy of Holies. Instead, when Luther speaks of prayer, he almost always means praying the Word of God. And he usually focused on the Psalms. Luther thinks of prayer as giving God back the Word which He has spoken to us.
This is quite different than what we normally think of as prayer. When we think of prayer we tend to think of asking God for something, or maybe simply having a conversation with Him. And make no mistake that certainly does have its place. When we are talking about becoming a theologian though, Luther’s prayer is what we ought to think of. After all, there is no better way to study God, than to study the Word which He Himself left for us.
Which moves us into the second step, Meditation. Now of course, Luther is not thinking of sitting cross legged with your hands on our knees and humming. Really what this means is to study. Read the Word that you are focusing on. Compare it with other verses that are similar. Reread the Word again. Try to figure out what God is really trying to tell us through that particular verse. This is the meditation of a Theologian. In the process of this mediation, you will almost undoubtedly run into something that makes you stop and say, “Wait, that can’t be right.” It is when this happens that the Suffering begins.
Remember, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) When you decide to pursue being a good theologian, it is important to remember that you are pursuing a two-edged sword. Eventually the Word is going to cut you. It’s going to push you one of two ways. It will either push you towards God, and faith in the Word that He has spoken, or it will push you away from God and toward unbelief in that Word.
To put it in more familiar terms, when you study the Bible you’re going to suffer because eventually the Word is going to speak Law directly to you, or someone close to you. When that happens, it’s going to hurt. It’s not going to be fun. You will have to face the reality that you or someone close to you may be acting against the God who created you. Of course you can also struggle when the Gospel is spoken directly to you if you aren’t yet ready to hear that Gospel.
When Suffering happens, the cycle begins anew. When you are suffering, begin praying. Begin again this cycle, for it is this cycle of Prayer, Meditation, and Suffering that will form you into a good Theologian. Everybody is a theologian, if you want to be a good one though, Luther’s method is a good way to go about pursing that goal.
One last note, a good Theologian always remembers what the entire Bible is about. It’s always, always, about Christ Crucified for the forgiveness of sins. If you find yourself wandering away from that truth, begin the cycle. Start praying. Figure out how the Word you’re looking at points toward Christ, because it does, whether you realize it or not.