I’m minutes away from walking into my first class of a new semester here at Southern Seminary. If this class is like the others I’ve taught, there’ll be people in the room I come to know this semester that will be friends for the rest of my life. I also know that there will be hundreds of thousands in that room here in Norton Hall.
Now, physically speaking, of course, the room can’t fit nearly that many. But as we’re talking through issues of the mystery of Christ, how to preach the Word of God, how to understand what’s going on in the universe and in the lives of people, there will be a number I can’t number (including many yet unborn) who’ll be part of the conversation.
You see, in the room will be future pastors and missionaries and counselors and women’s ministry leaders. They’ve been called out by God to minister to people they’ve not met yet. And that’s what theology is about. It’s not about quarreling about words, or setting up partisan divisions. Theology is helping a shellshocked widow clean up after a suicide. Theology is about crying with a teenage boy who’s body is shaking with crystal meth. Theology drives you to rock orphans in India, singing “Jesus Loves Me” while you pray they learn what that means. Theology is hugging an animist African’s neck while you tell him Jesus can protect him from the spirits he fears…or hugging a self-righteous Southern Baptist American’s neck while you tell him he doesn’t fear those demonic spirits nearly enough.
And that brings me to one more thought. My demonology is Third World enough (I’d say first-century enough) for me to believe that there just might be some unclean spirits in the room today, scoping out their future opposition. Might I even hope that Satan himself might peer in to see what’s in store for him in the next generation?
If so, I hope they understand what I hope will go on in there. The powers would love for us to learn to cherish our systems or our arguments. They’d love for us to learn how to win arguments with lost people. That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to learn wisdom and love, to learn Christ.
That’s why we’ll start this semester off throwing the textbooks on the floor, pulling our chairs out, and getting on our knees to pray for the people in our future, those whose names we don’t know, that this semester would be profitable for them.
Satan doesn’t mind hearing us debate supralapsarianism or the days of creation or the noetic effects of the Fall (and we’ll do all of that). But what he trembles at is what we’ll start out doing today–calling out to the Lord Jesus: “Have mercy on us, sinners.”