Thoughts on Theology

I am working on a master's degree through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. I'm struggling hard with my current course, THEO 525 (Systematic Theology I) because it is almost all theory and almost zero practical application. I complained to my chaplain but a few days ago that I wasn't getting anything out of this class because I just didn't think it was important to know the difference between redaction criticism and reader-response criticism. He smiled and said something like he has said to me in the past (Seminary is an educational institution...or something like that).

The fact is that in a short time (OPSEC keeps me from telling you when), I will be leading a worship service and facilitating two Bible studies. I'm sure that we'll have numerous discussions as well between various "members" of our little group. You know what that means? It means I'll be in my element. It's being the average saint. It's putting the theoretical to the test, if there is such a thing, and no one is going to be concerned about higher or lower criticism.

Yes, yes, of course, various criticisms are very important. I'm not disputing that fact. My concern is the amount of time at which we study these. Don't get caught up so much in how to study the Bible or what is the best way to do this or that. All of that is theory. At some point, you'll just have to do it.

And I'll tell you how it goes when I'm done!


Tony Farson said...

I humbly beg to differ on the point that theology is by and large theory. Calling theology theory implies that it is impractical and has no place in a Christian's life and relationship to the LORD. Nothing could be further from the truth! Theology is the study of God (not a theory) as He revealed Himself through both Special (Holy Scriptures) and natural/general revelation (those things in which we can see the works of God through observation of creation. Systematic theology is an attempt to understand God, to understand man's relation to God and our purpose within His redemptive plan. Theology encompasses the study of the scriptures, history & nature. Theology properly studied encompasses Soteriology, Christology, and Anthropology and how each relates to one another and of course to God.

Systematic Theology, the study of proper hermeneutics, proper biblical exegesis and application is crucial to the bible student. Understanding the character and will of the LORD is important and not purely academic, it is applicable to our understanding of Him. His immutability, omniscience, incomprehensibility and sovereign will are directly related to how we live and respond to His Scriptures, understand His justice & mercy and Christ's gracious work on the Cross on our behalf. These things set the tone for how the whole of Scripture and therefore how our view of God is framed. Furthermore classical theology endeavors to discover how God might be glorified and magnified the most by man, and seeks to discern the harmony which exists across the whole of Scripture. A lofty and honorable pursuit to be sure.

I believe Theology is essential to a pastor or other leadership positions within Christian settings. As shepherds we have a responsibility to make every effort to PROPERLY handle the absolute truths revealed in the Scriptures about our LORD and Savior. It is not however, essential to salvation of course, and can jade some people who are not mature enough to engage on such an in-depth study. It can also cause younger believers or curious unbelievers to focus too much on the STUDY rather than the SUBJECT. I submit to you that these men and women to whom you are shepherding onboard are not ready to be introduced to theology proper, but rather affirmed in the essential truths of our Faith, and taught how to live holy and pleasing lives that glorify God. Leave your theology studies for your own time with the LORD.

Stephanie Kay said...

Hmm... I'm reminded of my 10th grade Geometry and 11th grade Algebra II classes when we told the teacher over and over that "we'll never use this stuff in real life!" For the most part I haven't. BUT other people have - like the person who designed and built the interstate highway I travel every week.

I don't know anything about Systematic Theology but since it's a "I" class I'm assuming there is at least a "II" class to follow. I wonder what foundations the class is building in your knowledge that may be "practical" in the future?

Just a thought...

The Navy Christian said...

Tony's last line is essentially my entire point. I've been in church since I was born, and outside of a pastor specifically speaking on theological points, I've never been in a situation where someone needed to know that he believed in covenant theology or reformation theology (or any other, for that matter).

Of course, I can't argue with you guys. Both of you caught me in the depths of my frustration, and I'm better for having friends like you. You're both right. Someday, I'll undoubtedly be glad that I took these courses.

Some days I sit around and think "Wow...I could do this for the rest of my life. I want to be a seminary professor!" and then there are days like today, where I'm choked spiritually by terms that make no sense to the common Christian. I suppose it's just going to be part of my life.

Tony Farson said...

As you may have guessed I too am exploring theology, specifically I am studying Reformed (AKA Covenant) theology. I have chosen Covenant theology because it is the theology of our church fathers and of the great reformers (hence the name) who took back Christianity and gave it to us. We wouldn't have bibles in our hands today if it weren't for their incredible courage and sacrifices. Anyway, I found a few good lectures on the subject of theology that might be enjoyable:

Here is a fun site on the subject...

Here are a few good sites:

I cannot stress enough the importance of a believer learning and grasping as much as they can retain on the subject of theology. Not every believer is meant to be a layman, and not every believer is meant to be a bible scholar, and neither nor anyone in between should be judged for their depth of knowledge. The LORD commands us to love Him with all our hearts, body, souls and "minds." We should all endeavor to reach as deep as we can in this respect to more honor our Sovereign LORD.

David Singhiser said...

Nothing very deep here.

Dogmatics is important, but I have problems with the idea that higher criticism is part of dogmatics.

It's important to know, but not vital. It's minor compared to the real dogmas of the Church: The Holy Trinity, The Incarnation, The Resurrection.

The forms of Biblical Criticism in the Western Church come and go; the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God, will not.

David Singhiser said...

I'm not sure if the first comment took:

It seems strange to me that Biblical Criticism would be taught in a Dogmatics class.

The different forms of Biblical Criticism come and go in the Western Church, but the Dogma - The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God, stands fast.

Biblical Criticism is helpful to know, but has little to do with the Faith. Just get through it, but don't loose focus on who Jesus Christ is and what He's done for us.

The Navy Christian said...

Thank you for your comment! I tend to agree with you, especially your last line. I'm convinced that we'll miss the forest for the trees if we're not careful as a religion. In fact, I would suggest that religion gets its power from overthinking things instead of just doing them.
Thanks for your comment!