Many Christians know about doctrine. But fewer know what doctrine is for.
I’ve never heard a better answer than the one Ligon Duncan gave at Together for the Gospel in 2008. “Doctrine,” he said to several thousand listeners, “is for joy.” By this time, I was a doctoral student in theology, but I had never heard a formulation like this. It instinctively clicked. The truth is not a club, a blunt-force instrument. The truth of God is a gateway to paradise. Every individual teaching of the Scripture is a wave to surf, a medicinal aid to the human soul, precisely-calibrated balm for the human condition.
As I reflect on Duncan’s talk nearly a decade later, I’m thankful that he joined us at Midwestern Seminary. Duncan, the Chancellor, and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary gave the Spurgeon Lectures at MBTS. You can listen to his lectures here; alongside his 2008 T4G address, his message on “The Gospel by Numbers” is spellbinding. (If you can arrest attention and stir the heart by expositing Numbers, you are excelling still more.)
Lig Duncan is one more visitor to Kansas City in pursuit of theological uplift and sunlit uplands. This past year or so has featured a veritable parade of skillful handlers of God’s Word: D. A. Carson, Simon Gathercole, Mark Dever, Kevin Vanhoozer, and many more. Such opportunities speak to the value of residential seminary education. Many of us are thankful for the reach and potential of online instruction. We are also aware that there is no value like the value of in-person, up-close, intense, challenging, formational training of the kind one gains by taking up residence at a seminary.
Not everyone can pick up stakes and move to get optimal, in-person training. But many can. Do not forget: you only get one chance to prepare for ministry. The preparation is as important as the future work. Don’t cheat yourself. Get as much training as you can. Go as deep as you can. Soar as high as you can. Work as hard as you can. It’s all worth it. It’s all for God. It all glorifies him.
Remember the rule of the kingdom: the tougher the endeavor, the more God is glorified, and the more joy there is to be won.
Editor's Note: This originally published at The Center for Public Theology.