Restore’s first “Rooted” Session
On November 8th we gathered for our first session discussing Wayne Grudem’s “Bible Doctrine”. This wasn’t meant to be a re-hash of the introduction or chapter one, but a time intended to stir up questions and comments; to delve further into the overarching theme of “What is systematic theology?” As Mike mentioned, systematic theology was one of his favorite subjects in seminary, because it helped him actually understand the Word of God; so let’s hope it does the same for us! In addition to our discussion of the text, Mike delivered a small lecture consisting of seven points that shed light on the need for systematic theology. If you weren’t there for the session, here’s a re-cap of his points:
- Everyone has a theology, and everyone is a theologian. Unless we are focusing on the Jesus of the bible, we will make Jesus look like us. That is to say, if we don’t focus on what God said about Himself in His word, we will end up manufacturing a God that looks nothing like the God of the Bible. In the end, we all end up having a “theology”. What kind of theologian will we be?
- Studying theology is one of the greatest privileges you will ever have. Did you know that theology was referred to as the “Queen of the Sciences” within Ivy League academics? Knowing about God isn’t the same as knowing God. However, what do you do when you want to know someone better? You try to learn as much as you can about them! When you start to know them, you’ll want to know them more and more deeply.
- Bad theology exists because people don’t do systematic theology. As Mike has said in the past “A text without context is a pretext to make it whatever we want”. By ignoring context, or considering what else the Bible says on a given topic, we run the risk of coming to heretical conclusions. In fact, there are no “new” interpretations of the Bible, just ancient heresies re-packaged for modern times.
- Be careful: don’t be fat in the head and skinny in the heart. It’s said that the Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann memorized the entire New Testament (in Greek, to boot) and believed none of it. It’s possible to know a lot about God and not worship Him. We don’t want to get to a point where our heads are swollen with knowledge and our hearts are barren due to a reliance on our intellect. While many can swing between two camps: being doctrinal, or being experiential. We want to be both. Those who fall into the “experiential only” camp want to talk only about “experience”. That is to say, they only want to discuss their “experience” of God, which tends to be subjective. This ends up leading to a “mystical” interpretation of God – ignoring the fact that He has clearly revealed much about Himself in scripture. This leads to the other extreme (doctrine only), those who say “Give me a bible and a highlighter”. Ultimately, we want elements of both. We want our heads and hearts to aid us in being hands-on/missional. The end result is something thoroughly scriptural, deeply experiential, while being passionately missional.
- The study of doctrine must lead to delight or else it’s dangerous. You want to be growing in godliness and mission, not just “growing in knowing”. When was the last time you cried over scripture, an attribute of God, forgiveness of sin, or the brokenness of the world around you? See the fourth point.
- Don’t let systematic theology trump the plain, everyday, beautiful reading of the Bible. Plainly put, this isn’t your Bible. While the study of systematic theology can help us in understanding our Bible, it won’t read and experience the Bible for us.
- You must put shoes on the truth. You’ve learned a lot. So, how are you going to apply and walk it out?