To do ministry you must learn. If you don’t know theology, you aren’t a good pastor. However, even above being learned, “a minister must be godly” (182). The great challenge of theological study is to avoid “[setting] these two things over against one another” (182).
It would be easy to set aside devotional life when—in the press for time and rush of life—I turn to study. Warfield’s essential message is that we do not have to—in fact we must not—turn from God when we turn to read our books and write our papers. If ever we pick one without the other, we have failed. The battle of theological education is to tie the two together.
Writing as Work and Worship
Warfield believes the tying together of work and worship is the battle for every profession (184). Whether milkman, minister, professor, pastor, manager or manual laborer no person should turn from God to their work. “Religion must not take a man away from his work; it sends him to his work with an added quality of devotion (183).” Students in theological education are no exception to this fight for faith. We must turn to our books with zeal and focus, doing our work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23–24).
As for every Christian, we should devote our attention to both our work and glorifying God by doing our work as worship. Wisdom and self-knowledge must guide us as we invest our talents (Matt. 25:14–30). Laziness is all that is impermissible (184). If students neglect their books they are as negligent in their work just as fathers who neglect their children are remiss in parenting.
The Danger of Studying Theology
Warfield believes that students of theological education have to fight all the harder because they concern themselves with the deep things of God day in and day out. We could become accustomed to God and find him boring. We could grow blind over time to his grandeur. Like a long-time tour guide in Colorado who sees the Grand Canyon as common, we might not stand amazed at the view of our grand God. Warfield’s correction is warranted: a religious man cannot stand in the presence of God without worship (185). Sight without savoring won’t be enough. Papers without passion don’t cut it. Eyes without emotion are lacking. Christians don’t just believe in their heads; they adore in their hearts.
What is worship without love? Therefore, we must learn to “prosecute [our] daily tasks as students of theology as ‘religious exercises'” (186). In other words, our daily tasks must enhance zeal for God.
Though we seek increasing appetite through study, Warfield reminds us that our studies must not be our sole religious exercises. There should be many other work-outs to stretch our faith. He has in mind especially corporate worship services which spur one another on toward worship and prayer.
Nathan Colestock is an alumni of Emmaus Bible College and current MDIV student at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He also enjoys serving on staff at Meadow Creek Church in Andover, MN pastoring youth and families. He is the lucky husband of Maddie and a father to his two adorable daughters.