Tripping Through Theology - Take 2

Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start.

What exactly is theology? In its most simplistic form, theology is the study of God. Hmmm... that makes every person a theologian. Yes, it does. We all think something of God, even the atheist who has come to believe that God does not exist. Even an atheist has a theology.

So, where do you get your theology? If you are a Christian, does your theology only come from the Bible? Or do you look at the Bible through historical eyes, taking things in context? Do you get your theology from books like the DaVinci Code or the Shack? Do you get your theology from your pastor? Or, does your theology come from a variety of sources, experiences, emotions, etc.

I'd love to hear what you think.


Mrs. Edwards said…
I believe Scripture to be the final authority and ultimately it alone informs my theology. Sola Scriptura.

However, the Scriptures have been taught and explained to me through sermons, Bible studies, lectures, and books (not popular novels as you mention, but commentaries and other non-fiction books). I especially enjoy books from scholars who can help me understand the Scriptures as they were written in their original manuscripts. Books that help me see what the original Greek and Hebrew meant or the historical context of the author are very helpful.

My view of God cannot be formed by my feelings and emotions--even my intellect. It must be formed by God's own revelation to me. God is not who or what I think Him to be. He is not the creation of my mind or imagination. If my theology is based upon that it is idolatrous.

Is that a good start? It seems to me there is value in fleshing out a full answer to these basic questions! Thanks for the challenge!
Laura said…
Amen Mrs. Edwards! I'm digging through the ideas of Biblical Theology vs. Systematic Theology. The course we are taking differentiates between the two and selects Systematic Theology as the more complete. So far, I'm not sold. More on that to come.

Thank you so much for your insightful comments.
Mrs. Edwards said…
I'm such a "wannabe." I wish I knew so much more than I do and I wish I was smarter than I am! Anyway, that preamble before admitting that I didn't know there was a difference between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. I can't wait for you to fill me in. I refer to Wayne Grudman's Systematic Theology for help with doctrinal issues quite often, but didn't realize that I was choosing that over another option.

Looking forward to take 3 and 4 and 5...
Steve Sensenig said…
I've only ever heard the term "biblical theology" used as a synonym for reformed theology, aka calvinism. As such, I have found the term less than conducive to constructive dialog. After all, who wants to be found arguing against something that claims to be "biblical"? ;)

You've read my blog before so you probably have some sense of where I'm at on this topic. I happen to think from my own experience that "sola scriptura" is somewhat a myth.

Jesus said that he would send us the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit would lead us into all truth, remind us of the things that Jesus said, etc.

So, I prefer to say that my theology comes from Jesus. He is the revelation of the "theos" of whom we learn. As Jesus himself said, the scriptures point to him. It is he who is the source of life, not the scriptures themselves.

In that regard, I see the scriptures not as the final destination, but as the map to the destination.

By reading the scripture, I become familiar with the voice of the Spirit, and ultimately through his guidance, the voice of my Shepherd.
Laura said…
Hey Steve -

Thanks so much for commenting... I know you have thought much on so many difficult topics. It is good to hear your heart on these things.

"Biblical theology", as I've come to understand it, restricts the formulation of theology only to the Scripture, without reference to context, historical/cultural norms, etc.

While I, personally, believe that Scripture is the ultimate, complete, infallible authority on matters of salvation, I am sometimes tripped up by other Biblical mandates. (i.e. headcoverings for women, women teaching, etc.) In order for me to understand these ideas, I must consult historical documentation.

I believe God has also thoroughly revealed Himself in our created world so that 'all are without excuse.' So, I would have to say that His incredibly creation does impact my theology.

We each bring baggage to the Scripture that does impact our interpretation. However, as you mentioned, the Holy Spirit is alive and well and functioning for those who are attentive. And yet, why then, do we have persons 'hearing from the Spirit' who stand arguing on completely contradictory grounds. Which one of these parties is not in tune with the Spirit?

OK... I've started down a few rabbit trails when my intention was to focus on the foundational. I plan to post about other methods of theology and how they compare to Systematic Theology which approaches the Bible in its entirety to formulate a theology for all persons for all time.

Thank you for helping me sort through a few areas.

Always thinking,
Steve Sensenig said…
Which one of these parties is not in tune with the Spirit?

This is always a tough question. However, in my experience, I have noticed that one or both sides in the types of disagreement to which you refer behave or demonstrate fruit that is inconsistent with the Spirit.

Jesus told us that the litmus test for disciples is love for one another. John talked about this in his first epistle when he said that no one can say they love God if they do not love their brother.

So, when looking at myself, I ask, "Am I demonstrating fruit consistent with the Spirit of Christ?" And if someone comes along teaching something different, I look at their fruit.

It's amazing how often something might sound very good, but then you watch the fruit of that teaching or of the teacher themselves, and you realize that it's completely counter to the person of Jesus Christ.

I would rather hang around, and learn from, the one who demonstrates love than the one who claims their theology is correct, yet does not have love for their brothers.

To put it another way, if theology does not 1) make us more like Christ, and 2) make us love others more, regardless of how "correct" it might be, it is of no value (cf. 1 Cor 13).
Laura said…
Steve -

May I never step off the cliff and pursue theology for any other reason than love. Thank you for that reminder. I'm taking your comment in another direction, just to clarify some things for myself.

We can love people in so many wonderful ways... clothing, feeding, caring, rejoicing, grieving, and many more. I contend than the most loving thing we can do is show them the way Home; show them Jesus.

Often, particularly in my circle of non-believers, Jesus is obscured by the 'Christians' of this world who cannot explain their faith and the Bible in a way that makes sense and appeals to their rationality. These particular folks do not need my food, my drink, my clothes... they need my loving, semi-intellectual explanation of why I believe.

Theology, the word itself, appears to be loaded with baggage. For the purposes of this humble blog, I include every person on the planet as a theologian and define theology as simply as 'the study of God.'

'Correct' Christian theology does not exist this side of heaven. Our attempts at it are mere Don Quixote moves. And yet, does my imperfection give me excuse to leave the needed stone unturned and avoid theology completely? ... Never. My attempts at loving any other way will also be imperfect. Yet, I continue with the power of the Holy Spirit to do each of these things. Not for my glory, mind you, but for the glory of my Audience of One.
Steve Sensenig said…
Just to clarify, dear friend, I was speaking in general terms and not at you specifically. I totally applaud what you're writing about and seeking out in your study! :)
Laura said…
No offense taken :)... your words only serve to hone my thoughts sharper. I love that!!!

Plus, I 'know' you and Christy well enough to always assume love. I do need guidance here... I'm just getting started and I know you've thought through most, if not all, of these topics in much greater detail than I.

All of that to say, please speak freely. Cheers!

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