“It’s a rare picture, certainly…”

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In a frustrated moment during the end of lectures one week at Youthworks College, I went home and curled up in a ball for a few hours, mourning the loss of the braincells I lost by pounding my head against the metaphorical brick wall that is doctrine at times. After these hours, I set about redeeming the text book that had become a headache.

It wasn’t the text book’s fault, by the way. It was simply my frustration at not understanding something immediately. The text book merely bore the brunt of my angst that particular week.

This semester at Moore we’re embarking upon Doctrine and I’m finding myself reading yet another text book that is full of words that are larger than my vocabulary reaches and containing ideas that will no doubt lead me to find solace in a Brandon Sanderson novel and a large cup of coffee.

But a question was raised in today’s lecture. The question was one about the nature of systematic theology, and if indeed it could be anything like artistry. This has drawn me back to the Youthworks text book – Introducing Christian Doctrine by Erickson & Hustad, if you were curious – and the way in which I redeemed it.

You can see the photo for yourself, but here’s what the quote says:

“You know, brethren, it is the details in which lies the beauty. If I trust Jesus as my Saviour I shall be saved, but the enjoyment of faith comes from knowing him in his person, in his offices, in his work, in his present, and past, and future. We perceive his true beauty by studying him, and observing him carefully, and with holy watchfulness. So it is with the doctrines; the mere whole of the doctrine… is blessed, but it is when we come to take the doctrine to pieces that we gain the purest enjoyment.

“Yes,” says the clown as he looks at a fine painting, such, for instance, Paul Potter’s famous Bull at the Hague, “it’s a rare picture, certainly,” and then he goes away. But the artist sits down and studies its details. There is to him a beauty in every touch and shade, which he understands and appreciates. Many believers have light enough to know the faith in its bare outline, but they have not observed the filling up, and the minute wherein the sweetest comfort will always be found by the spiritually educated child of God. They can see, but they “see men as trees, walking.” – Spurgeon

And so, with trepidation and the reminder that what we’re doing is not simply studying – but gazing upon the beauty of God in new detail – I’m ready for the headaches to follow, and the blessings that come from such hard work.



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