It is important for a scholar, a historian, or a teacher to fully understand the Bible as well as the underlying historical context and various views and teachings of times past, in order to determine and espouse truth; and also to grasp a full understanding of the truths found within scripture. It is however rather dangerous to delve too far into philosophical analysis and debate that one loses sight of the spirit of the scriptures in favor of the letter of the scriptures, or the interesting nature of philosophy.
The truth is that the vast majority of Christians have neither the time nor the desire to spend their lives reading every Christian teaching ever written in search of truth. For the common man, this is what we have teachers for. Of course, this is not to discount the gravity of individual study of the scriptures, however deep they feel led by God to delve into it. However, the common man usually does not delve too far into the theological, eschatological, or similarly philosophical ponderings of various scholars throughout the ages. Neither is this a mark against him for not doing so, given that he does indeed spend daily time in prayer and regular study of the scriptures himself.
Jesus says to be like little children
The danger with getting too far into the origins or philosophical ponderings about the scriptures is that we lose sight of what really matters. Jesus told us to turn from our sins and be like “little children” (Matthew 18:3). When Jesus saw the little children running to him and welcomed them, he told us that in order for us to attain salvation, we must also be like these little children.
If salvation was dependent on understanding the deepest of philosophical musings and analyzing extensive scholarly and historical ponderings in the search for truth, then not only would very few even embark on such a journey, but also it would defy the very Word that teaches us how to live.
If a child, who knows little, lacks wisdom, and certainly is not particularly learned in philosophical musings about scripture, can attain salvation, then neither does an adult need to do the same. He only does so to satisfy his own curiosity, or, in some cases, to ensure that he becomes a teacher who speaks truth instead of spouting regurgitated and unvetted theology. The common man, however, is not a teacher or philosopher or historian, and thus has no such excessive obligation.
Living biblically is simple (although not easy)
The Bible is quite clear about how we are to live – and not only clear, but it is also rather simple. Worship God alone and love God with all your mind, heart, and soul (Matthew 22:37). Believe in Christ, God’s Son and put your trust in Christ alone for salvation (John 14:6). Love one another as yourself (Mark 12:31). Live holy lives and offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).
Beyond these things, the common man needs not learn the intricacies of theology or ecclesiology or hamartiology or systematic theology or exegetical theology or dispensationalist theology or eschatology or philosophy to attain salvation and please God. He only needs to love God and his fellow man, and show as much through his daily life in both thought, which only God knows, and through deed, which affects oneself and those around him, and which validates and actualizes the faith he claims to have.
While there is some validation in deeply studying theology in order to determine who is a false teacher and who speaks truth; in truth, God provides His Holy Spirit to us to give us wisdom and discernment about what is true and what is not. God is of course able to break the bondage of brainwashing into theological and philosophical views about God and about life and about our existence, but of course it does require one to be truly honest with themselves and be willing to make personal sacrifices (such as leaving a certain community or abandoning dearly-held worldviews) in the pursuit of purity and truth.
The danger of overly-intellectual theological debates
The danger, however, is the intense and virtually nonsensical babbling about endless theological and philosophical and even historical religious ponderings that draws not only the arguer in spirit away from God but also alienates those who have no desire to learn about such overly-intellectual musings – which is probably most people. As a result, these scholars and theologians risk failing to use their knowledge and intellect for any good except to contribute to the ever-growing endless theological writings which will most likely be read by no man, or few, and only scholars rather than laypeople – a somewhat trivial effort with little practical substance.
God’s instructions to us for how to pursue Him and how to live our lives are really quite simple. Anyone who goes to God daily and earnestly in prayer and personal study of scripture has the ability to learn all that is necessary to live in this life and please God, entirely apart from any theological education. Of course, teachings are certainly beneficial and have some merit, but only when such teachings remain true to the spirit of the scriptures and do not get lost in the letter of the words and philosophical analysis that alienates the common man.
Overcomplicated theology is an increasing problem in a world where information overload is one of the most common ailments of the technological man. Adding to an already overabundant bundle of words with impractical and difficult-to-understand theology which holds little importance in practice or in our relationship with God only leads to driving people away from God instead of toward it.
It is good to study history and theology, to root out false teachings and seek truth; but it is important not to get too caught up in intellectual debate that you lose sight of what really matters. And what really matters on a spiritual level is really, quite simple – although not so easy to put into practice.