All else being equal, I’d rather have a mature Christian with simple theological knowledge than an extremely knowledgeable, well-read Christian without a lot of maturity. But, of course, neither situation is desirable. Let me explain.
A Tale of Two Corners
In this corner, we see Mr. Bookworm. He’s not quite thirty years old. He’s very intelligent. He’s read Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Bavinck. He knows Warfield and Hodge, Piper and Carson, too. Since coming to the Lord in college, Mr. Bookworm has been on fire for learning. He listens to a dozen sermons each week on his iPod. He has a better grasp of current theological debates than most pastors. He loves Christian conferences—the good, meaty ones. Mr. Bookworm knows all about hermeneutics, propitiation, covenant theology, the regulative principle, and the ordo salutis. He’s even teaching himself a little Greek. Hebrew and Latin are around the corner, and then Ugaritic, if he’s got time.
Mr. Bookworm is smart, serious about his faith, and wants to serve the Lord. But he’s twentysomething and not all that mature. In terms of knowledge, he’s playing in the Major Leagues, but as far as wisdom he’s batting below .200 in Class-A ball. He does’t have gross sins, just some annoying ones. On the truth-grace scale, he’s all truth. He’s obnoxious, bordering on abrasive. He lacks all sense of proportion. He can’t see that a debate over presuppositional and evidentialist apologetics is not as serious as Athanasius versus Arianism. Everything is a first-order issue because there are no other kinds of issues.
To make matters worse, Mr. Bookworm talks too much. He sees every conversation as a forensics match waiting to happen. He’s opinionated. He doesn’t ask questions. People are scared of him and he doesn’t know why. Except for those in complete agreement with him, Mr. Bookworm doesn’t have many friends. He’s not trying to be rude or arrogant. In fact, when push comes to shove, he can be a winsome fellow. The problem is he has all this knowledge and doesn’t know how to use it wisely or winsomely.