How can I encourage my boyfriend to take a deeper look at theology?

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How can I encourage my boyfriend to take a deeper look at theology?

Jun 14, 2010 |John Thomas
Question

I'm dating a wonderful Christian guy that I've been friends with for years, and our relationship is definitely moving toward marriage. Over the years I've had the opportunity to see him living out his faith and serving the Lord in our campus fellowship group. I have no doubt about the fact that he loves the Lord and has a heart for reaching the lost.

He is currently active in church and takes the initiative in having spiritually meaningful conversations with the people in his life. The issue I'm concerned with is more about his views on the importance of theology. He thinks people can talk too much about theology, and it's not that necessary. He thinks it's more important to just tell people about Jesus and His love.

I think theology is extremely important, though, because good theology is properly understanding God and who He is. (I like reading books about theology and listening to podcasts from Mark Dever, R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, etc.) A Christian must know the truths about the Gospel message by heart so as not to be taken captive by deceptive philosophies.

How could I go about encouraging my boyfriend to take a deeper look at theology and its importance? And if he doesn't have a desire to grow in his knowledge of theology what should I do? Lastly, I personally ascribe to the basics of Reformed theology. If we don't both agree with Reformed theological principles, would it be unwise to proceed toward marriage?

Answer

It's hard to tell from my vantage point how serious of a difference this is between the two of you, but I will say this sounds like at least a yellow flag that needs attention. You might discover that the core of what each of you believes is exactly the same, but the way it works itself out is different. Or, you might discover that you think very differently at a more fundamental level that would impact "becoming one" in marriage. For obvious reasons, figuring that out now is critical.

First, a thought about theology in general. You are right; good theology is critically important. My belief is so strong about that it sent me to seminary! But good theology is important not just for the sake of knowing right things about God, but for what that knowledge ultimately "does," if you will, in us. Is it producing a transformed life? Is it causing an ever-increasing love for and loyalty to Christ? Is it bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Theology for the sake of itself — a kind that doesn't result in humble worship, deep adoration and joy-filled service to the King — was one of the things Jesus was most critical of.

Maybe your boyfriend is merely (over?) reacting (at least in conversation with you) to having seen a lot of "talk" of right theology among believers, but not much "walk." He might believe everything you believe about God, about Reformed theology (a simple conversation with him about Reformed theology could answer that question for you) and about the importance of it, but his emphasis is on the outcome. He's a man of action!

Meanwhile, maybe you're doing the same. Maybe you've seen a lot of "zeal without knowledge" and what negative outcomes can result, and you're (rightly) concerned about such an approach to the Christian life. You're a woman of "think first!"

So it's quite possible that the differences you have are more about personalities and reactions to past experiences than anything else. If so, that's a normal part of two people becoming "one" and learning to appreciate what others have experienced while growing in our own thinking.

Another possibility is that, again, you both agree at the core about the basics of Reformed theology, but you are merely emphasizing different aspects of it. That might be a result of each having different spiritual gifts. For instance, maybe he has the gift of evangelism and you the gift of teaching, and those gifts might be — might be — coming across as deeper rifts than they really are.

If so, he's going to always be inclined to "Go!" and he'll need to learn that one can't go unless he is also "being still" and "studying to show himself approved." You, on the other hand, will always be inclined like the Bereans who studied the Scriptures intently out of a good and right heart. But your area of being stretched might be in getting it from the Book to the hands and feet and mouth.

If that's the case, then what you might be experiencing is the vive la différence of a couple, or put in biblical terms, one body, many parts. The hope then is that you would grow to appreciate and love what the other person brings to your relationship, the same as we are charged to do in the larger Body of Christ.

On the other end of our sliding scale of differences are those fundamental beliefs about the Christian faith that would impact your unity in worship, growing in Christ and what you'll teach your children. If your core beliefs are in opposition to one another, then best to know it now and determine whether they rise to the level of deal-breaker in the relationship.

My advice is that you sit down and actually go over whatever "basics" are core to your faith, and he needs to do the same. Talk it through and see where it takes you. If you agree on what really matters to both of you, then I'd call that a green light. If you disagree on what really matters to each of you, then take some time to pray and decide how you'd feel if the other person never changed his or her belief in those areas. Your answer to that question will determine how to proceed.

He sounds like a really great guy, and I hope for both of you that what you're experiencing is a matter of gifts or emphasis growing out of the same core beliefs. But, if it is a more fundamental difference, better to find now than later.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2010 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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