Your recent report has been received, and we do note your concern that things might have taken a turn for the worse. Perhaps they have, but we would not worry too much that your target has developed an almost insatiable thirst for theology. We do not say this can be ignored, but at the same time, we would caution you against any panic. If properly managed, you may find that this actually works to our advantage, not the enemy’s. The battle for a man’s soul can be fought in many ways. Head on, forceful confrontation by tempting him with worldly pleasures is one way, and often very effective, but there are other ways equally so. Think of it like a judo match, where one contestant craftily uses the strength and size of his opponent against him. When he advances, instead of resisting his thrust, you pull him forward even faster—throwing him off balance, causing him to stumble, thus gaining the advantage. You must do the same with your budding theologian. Instead of discouraging him in his quest, encourage it, inflame it. Get him so absorbed in it that he will have no time to pursue other virtues—no time for personal prayer, no time for ministering to others. Bring him into association with others of like passion, that his interest might be stimulated all the more. Encourage him to spend his time getting straight the details of theology while never examining the condition of his own soul. Give him a sense of great satisfaction in displaying his knowledge and in pointing out the theological shortcomings of other believers. Increasing knowledge can puff up your prospect with selfish pride. You need not destroy his thirst for theological knowledge, but simply cause him to neglect one or more of the other Christian virtues. So long as his knowledge is not joined with the despicable love that builds up, the knowledge he acquires poses no real danger. It can actually undo him and those around him, and they will never know it. That is, in fact, the sweetest victory we can ever achieve, taking a man down with just the things he imagines are making him better—just like we did with the Pharisees. How sweet was that!
Dr. Mark E. Ross is professor of systematic theology at Erskine Theological Seminary in Columbia, S.C. He is author of Let’s Study Matthew.