Introductory Musings on Theology

As I begin this blog, I feel it is only right to start with some introductory comments on the two areas I mentioned in my welcome post, namely theology and apologetics. Today, allow me to start on theology.

The task of theology is indeed a task. By this, I mean that the Bible does not present all doctrine in a form that can be read like a statement of faith. I have most of my Christian walk felt the challenge of this as I sought to answer significant questions in areas such as whether a Christian can lose his salvation, whether we should keep parts of the OT law, and other related doctrinal questions that do really matter. Let me speak about three essentials for properly developing doctrine.

The first essential is called the literal-grammatical-historical method in interpreting the Bible. Charles Ryrie calls it the “normal, plain, or literal” method of interpretation (see Basic Theology, section 16) in Chapter 1).  By this, I am referring to inductive Bible Study. We read a passage in its context (historical and in the book itself) and stay within the bounds of the text of Scripture. We take it at its natural meaning, and avoid seeking a “deeper” sense (like allegory). We take the words to mean exactly as they would be understood by the original hearers. Additionally, we must not make the text say more or less than it was intended to be mean by the original human author (see Christopher Cone in Prolegomena on Biblical Hermeneutics and Method). This remains the most critical step because without it, we lose all true objectivity in developing doctrine. This method governs all our later theology in that the results of our studies here can always adjust later doctrines.

Yet, inductive Bible study is not entirely enough. So many beliefs can be had only by a comprehensive treatment of all that God has revealed on a given subject (c.f. to Lewis Sperry Chafer’s definition of systematic theology in his work on that subject). To speak to my earlier problem, I sought an answer to questions in the texts that they did not answer and in fact did not intend to answer. Thus, I ended up in a dead end. The answer is that one much develop synthesize doctrinal conclusions based on a grammatical-historical interpretation of multiple Bible passages. In other words, we must fit together these multiple passage and reach a summary of what they together tell us about God, man, etc. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is one such synthetic conclusion of multiple Bible verses. All though this process, we cannot allow earlier books of the Bible in the Old Testament to be changed by later revelation in the New Testament, but there is a progress of revelation in which truth is added to the older revelation. This progressive revelation and the adding of the New Testament truth to the Old is where the “analogy of faith” or “comparing Scripture with Scripture” as it is often called is properly put into place. By fitting together multiple passages of Scripture, we can arrive at true doctrine for life.

Finally, I would like to just add some comments on application. Truly, application is the important part. Yet, application can be had only after we have implemented the previous two essentials. Application can truly be the hardest part on several levels especially because it gets personal and it can be still challenging to rightly apply the Scriptures to ourselves. But, one should always seek to take the doctrine they have derived from the Bible and respond appropriately to it by believing it, loving it, obeying it with reference to proper dispensational distinctions, and worshiping God for it. Truthfully, I cannot imagine doing the studies I do unless I actually was going to seek to believe it and apply it. Often this finds final culmination in sharing it with others, and of course that is part of the reason for this blog.

In conclusion, three keys necessary to do theology with view to life, is a literal-grammatical-historical method in Bible study, a synthetic process of formulating doctrine, and application of that truth to ourselves. These all are an integral part of my building of a Biblical Worldview. I hope this post has been helpful and not too technical though it is admittedly a technical topic. We will be continuing to address some of these topics as this blog goes on. The next post will given an introduction to apologetics and the defense of the faith.