Theology, Knowledge, and the Mind

For many years of my Christian life, I was largely captivated by gaining more knowledge from the scriptures and listening to teachings. I was an armchair theologian at best. I loved God and I loved engaging Him in my mind. I would spend hours reading over various topics and watching educational videos and sermons. I had an insatiable appetite to debate and discuss theology and doctrine with any willing soul. In fact, I almost went to a popular ministry school in America, and in the back of my mind I had also considered doing formal theological and doctrinal training at a seminary. Through the guidance of my spiritual mentor and the Lord, I chose not to pursue these avenues, and for myself personally, I thank the Lord that I didn’t. (Some of the wisest, loving,  and biblically gifted saints I know, have never been through formal biblical training, not to mention most of the early apostles and disciples who wrote our Bible.)

In no way am I saying that theology is bad. In fact much of Christianity has dismissed theology and the vast riches it has brought through the centuries, because of either laziness or the fear that intellectualism will replace a heart knowledge and relationship with the Lord. Obviously there’s good theology and there’s bad theology. Good theology should always draw us deeper into the person of Christ. However, even with “correct” theology, there is the very strong danger of cold intellectualism suffocating a living and active relationship with Christ. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen time and time again. I’ve seen many dear brothers who were passionate about the Lord, thinking that seminary was the only way to pursue the Lord seriously, decide to go to formal bible colleges. During and after which, either they developed a lifeless faith or lost their faith all together.

Thus, pursuing the Lord with the mind must be coupled with something else. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We must not only pursue and love the Lord with our mind, but also our heart and soul. In fact, in the Greek, the words used for heart and mind are often used interchangeably. Loving and pursuing the Lord with only our minds will cause the heart to stop, draining the life out of us. We must also love the Lord with our hearts, and let His life infuse us in every way. In this way, things like theology and doctrine will cause us to grow in our love for Christ. We will come to know Him in deeper and more profound ways.

Additionally, the mind helps to give an expression to the heart through our thoughts and words. The Lord has given us a mind to engage the world, as well as to engage Him and His heart in a practical way. Knowledge is not something that we should scorn, rather it should be used as a tool that will help us “know” Him. In reality, true knowledge is a person, Christ Jesus. Knowing Christ is true knowledge, because there is nothing else worth knowing. Anything worth knowing is found in the person of Christ. That’s why these days, my main theological pursuit is simply coming to know Christ in a deeper and more intimate way. This can occur through reading the Bible, reading Christian books, fellowship with other saints, praying to the Lord, worshiping Him through singing or writing, and a vast amount of other things. But I’m not doing these things to puff myself up with knowledge, but rather build myself up in the Love of Christ. I do these things because I want to fall more in love with Him. It’s really not about having all our theological ducks in row or having all our systematic frameworks in place… It’s about knowing Him.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:16 that we in fact have the mind of Christ. He says that it is only by the Spirit that we can comprehend the things of God. Thus, through the Spirit of Jesus, we can have His mind and know Him in a spiritual way. Human knowledge and thinking will only get us so far. Our minds need to be infused with the Spirit to know the Lord in a deep spiritual way. Paul also says in Colossians 3:1-2, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Our Spirit infused mind should seek after the things that are above. Earthly wisdom and knowledge will not do. We must seek after the things of the Spirit, namely, Christ and His riches.

Another important side of this discussion is that the Lord has shrouded Himself in mystery. He is the Mystery. We can know Him, but there are always fresh things for us to discover, that we do not fully know or comprehend. This mystery, Christ in us, cannot be fully comprehended with our minds, but can be fully known and experienced “in us” through His Spirit. This indwelling Christ is our very life by which we live… it’s a very practical experience, but intellectually it’s very difficult to define and explain systematically. We need to come to a point in our walk with the Lord where we are comfortable to leave questions unanswered. This divine tension between mystery and knowing Him is where trust and faith is born. It’s from this place where the Lord starts to reveal Himself to us in more profound ways. Embracing the Mystery means to embrace Christ. He cannot be put into our theological boxes, rather we are put into Him, and from this mysterious place we come to know Him intimately.

It’s comforting to realize that I don’t have to know everything and always have an answer. His Spirit will guide me into Truth in whatever way is necessary and when He desires. I also don’t have to be a theological wunderkind to have a relationship with Him. In fact, He desires us to approach Him as a child in a simple way. Anybody can know the Lord regardless of the amount of knowledge they have. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears… Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Brothers and sisters… at the end of the day, knowledge will pass away, but Love is what remains. We must endeavor to be completely and utterly enamored by Christ, to fall in love with Him in a very real way, because that is what will remain for eternity. Knowledge is fleeting, Love is eternal.

Finally brothers and sisters, I encourage you to pursue Christ, because He is true knowledge, He is the consummation of all theological pursuits, we have His mind, He is the Mystery, and ultimately He is Love!

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About the author

Nathan Odell Nathan Odell is the author of Joined to Him. You can connect with him on

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Comments

  1. Well balanced, well focused and well expressed! Thanks, brother! Good post.

  2. ‘answered a question I’ve been having – balance between knowledge and revelation. Very well explained. Thank you.

  3. I agree!

    I have been thinking about this a lot – knowledge/loving the Lord our God with all our mind… so this is very timely for me! I love how God always leads my teaching and brings me to things at just the right time!!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

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