Category: Theology

9 Exhortations for Doing Theology

Theology can be a snare if we don’t pursue it properly. Below are nine exhortations for how we should approach the work of theology.

(1) Revere the nature of Scripture and beware of mere abstraction
When we study theology we must recognize that all true and useful theology flows from a proper understanding of Scripture. In order to properly understand Scripture, however, we must approach it according to what it is. That is, we must take it on its own terms and its own nature or else we will run the risk of misinterpreting and misapplying the Bible. For example, Scripture contains—particularly in the New Testament—a significant amount of epistles that deal specifically with theological and doctrinal issues. But the Bible is not a theology textbook, per se. There are multiple genres in Scripture: historical narrative, poetry, proverbial sayings, and stories, both true and fictional (e.g., parables). And even the heavily doctrinal portions of Scripture were written as letters to churches, not theological treatises. Continue reading “9 Exhortations for Doing Theology”

Why Arminianism Can’t Make You a More Compassionate Christian

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on how Christians can love those who hold to different worldviews. One of the reasons why the Christian worldview enables believers to love unbelievers is because it teaches that salvation is all of grace. I noted that when Christians are walking faithfully within a Christian worldview they will sense deep love and compassion for those who hold to opposing worldviews. In this article I want to focus particularly on the topic of compassion.

By affirming in the previous article that salvation is all of grace, I was assuming a specific view of grace; namely, a Calvinist view. And, as I’ve continued to reflect on this topic, it has become clear that only this understanding of grace provides the necessary theological grounds for a Christian’s compassion toward unbelievers. Arminian theology cannot, in the final analysis, provide an adequate basis for a believer to exercise compassion on those who reject Christ and the gospel. Continue reading “Why Arminianism Can’t Make You a More Compassionate Christian”

Quotes from 'Knowing God' by J.I. Packer

Knowing God - PackerAs I am making my way (slowly) through Packer’s Knowing God, I am bumping up against a host of excellent quotes.  I know that’s kind of like saying, “I went to the beach today and saw water!” as if others should be surprised.  Anyway, here are a few excerpts from the latter half of the book for your own edification:

God’s Wrath and the Gospel:“No doubt it is true that the subject of divine wrath has in the past been handled speculatively, irreverently, even malevolently.  No doubt there have been some who have preached of wrath and damnation with tearless eyes and not pain in their hearts.  No doubt the sign of small sects cheerfully consigning the whole world, apart from themselves, to hell has disgusted many.  Yet if we would know God, it is vital that we face the truth concerning his wrath, however unfashionable it may be, and however strong our initial  prejudices against it.  Otherwise we shall not understand the gospel of salvation from wrath, nor the propitiatory achievement of the cross, nor the wonder of the redeeming love of God” (156).

The Goodness of God: “The psalmist’s point [from Psalm 145:9, 15-16) is that, since God controls all that happens in his world, every meal, every pleasure, every possession, every bit of sun, every nights sleep, every moment of health and safety, everything else that sustains and enriches life, is a divine gift” (162).

Propitiation: “Has the word propitiation any place in your Christianity?  In the faith of the New Testament it is central.  The love of God, the taking of human form by the Son, the meaning of the cross, Christ’s heavenly intercession, the way of salvation–all are to be explained in terms of it…and any explanation from which the thought of propitiation is missing will be incomplete, and indeed actually misleading, by New Testament standards” (181).

Why More Theology Books?

Cross and Salvation 2.pngIsn’t it redundant and a waste of time to continue to read and write more theology books?  Don’t we already have enough that should last us for, say, the next 150 years?  Didn’t Calvin nail it with his Institutes?  Come on, let’s get on to something more worthwhile…

And so the comments go. Perhaps you’ve heard them, too.  Perhaps you’ve thought them. Bruce Demarest, in his systematic theology on the doctrine of salvation, The Cross and Salvation, helps us navigate through such an issue.  In fact, he poses the question himself:

Why another series of works on evangelical systematic theology?  This is an especially appropriate question in light of the fact that evangelicals are fully committed to an inspired and inerrant Bible as their final authority for faith and practice.  But since neither God nor the Bible change, why is there need to redo evangelical systematic theology? (xv)

Demarest seeks to answer that question by pointing us to the reality that in each era, there are specific issues that face the church and must be dealt with.  He continues,

….whereas the task of biblical theology is more to describe biblical teaching on whatever topics Scripture addresses, systematics should make a special point to relate its conclusions to the issues of one’s day.  This does not mean that the systematician ignores the topics biblical writers address.  Nor does it mean that theologians should warp Scripture to address issues it never intended to address.  Rather it suggests that in addition to expounding what Biblical writers teach, the theologian should attempt to take those biblical teachings (along with the biblical mindset) and apply them to issues that are especially confronting the church in the theologian’s own day.  For example, 150 years ago, an evangelical theologian doing work on the doctrine of man would likely have discussed issues such as the creation of man and the constituent parts of man’s being.  Such a theology might even have included a discussion about human institutions such as marriage, noting in general the respective roles of husbands and wives in marriage.  However, it is dubious that there would have been any lengthy discussion with various viewpoints about the respective roles of men and women in marriage, in society, and in the church.  But at our point in history and in light of the feminist movement and the issues it has raised even among many conservative Christians, it would be foolish to write a theology of man…without a thorough discussion of the issue of the roles of men and women in society, at home, and the church. (xvi)

So why more theology books?  Because the church will always need to bring the light of timeless, Biblical truth to shine on the issues of today.  Far from a waste of time, the writing and reading of new (good) theology books is a noble endeavor that will enable and motivate us to diligently apply God’s Word to our lives and the lives of others. So “Take up and read”…and write.

What Drives Your Theology?

No place for truthIn his book, No Place for Truth, David Wells examines the steady disappearance of theology in the evangelical church over the past century.  The subtitle (or the alternate title) of the book, Whatever happened to Evangelical Theology? explains well his approach and concern in the book.  What has happened to theology in the Church?  When did doctrine become a dirty word?  What are the consequences of such a trend?  Wells explains the situation like this,

We now have less biblical fidelity, less interest in truth, less seriousness, less depth, and less capacity to speak the Word of God to our own generation in a way that offers an alternative to what it already thinks (12). Continue reading “What Drives Your Theology?”