Theology: DEFINITION OF TERMS

Presuppositions: To suppose beforehand. Something which you presume to be true before you enter into a study. The evolutionist presupposes that the Biblical account of creation is false, and presumes to know what they believe is truth.

 

In electronics there is a basic presupposition which the whole of television, radio, computer etc. is based. The presupposition is the fact  that there is an electron flow through a substance. In a light bulb you must suppose that the electrons are flowing to explain the whole system of electricity and electronics. Without this supposition you have nothing, for you cannot prove there is an electron flow. For many years they supposed that electricity flowed from negative to positive.

 

We will have some presuppositions before we finish with the Prolegomena that will be used in our study of theology.

 

Dogma: No, this term does not mean your dog’s mother. It means according to Webster, “something held as an established opinion.”

 

Dogmatics: A study of things that can be held with all certainty. Some examples of dogmatics: Christ is God. Christ died, but rose again. These are dogmas of Christianity in general. (This is why the Roman Catholic Church is considered to be within the realm of Christianity.)

 

We don’t use the term much in fundamental circles, probably because it is a term that the Roman Catholic Church and some Lutherans use extensively. Our non-use of the term may relate to the fact there aren’t many things that evangelical Christianity holds as sure and certain. Many of the doctrines of the past have suffered and now are not certainties. Doctrines such as the pretribulational rapture, the premillennial return of Christ, the blood of Christ, and the two natures of man. We might be quick to add that some of these certainties were based on less than adequate study and evidence. There is evidence now that the “two natures of man” doctrine may not be technically correct. For the most part, however the lack of certainty is based on a lack of study rather than the certainty itself. The blood of Christ and His return are quite sure, as is the rapture.

 

 

Theology: This term comes from two terms — “theos” meaning God and “logos” meaning “rational expression” (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “Basic Theology”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 13) In short, the rational expression of God. The study and expression of God, if you please.

 

Ryrie lists three elements in theology:

 

1. Theology can be understood by the human mind.

 

2. Theology requires explanation; thus one must study and systematize it to verbalize theology.

 

3. Theology is Bible based and thus theology will result from Bible study. “Theology, then, is the discovery, systematizing, and presentation of the truths about God.” (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “Basic Theology”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 13)

 

Bancroft states,

 

“Its aim is the ascertainment of the facts concerning God and the relations between God and the universe, and the exhibition of these facts in their rational unity, as connected parts of a formulated and organic system of truth.” (Taken from the book, Christian Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Second revised edition Copyright 1976 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 13)

 

Theology can be classified in many ways: It can be classified by false and true. It can be classified by time frame: Early Church, reformation, modern etc. It can be classified by view: Calvinist, Armenian, liberal, evangelical, fundamental, etc.

 

TYPES OF THEOLOGY TO BE VIEWED

 

Natural Theology: That which man may know about God by viewing the creation of God. (Psalm 19:1-5, Acts 14:17, and Romans 1:20) What can we know of God from nature? God is a God of order (Examine flowers and their symmetry, examine the fungus and it’s symmetry). God is a God of variety (The species, sunsets, human faces, etc.). God is a God of immenseness (The distance between the planets and the stars).

 

Revealed Theology: That which man may know about God by viewing the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 2:10 shows that God has revealed to man. How much can we know from the Revelation of God? A great deal can be learned from His Revelation. I have been studying the Word for more than twenty-five years. I have only studied about 26 books of the Bible personally. When I reread those books, I learn even more about them and the God that revealed them.

 

Historical Theology: That which man believed to be knowledge of God in times past. This information may or may not be correct due to their limited time to study a particular topic.

 

One of the obvious doctrines that was previously held, but now is in decline, is “Creationism.” At one time there was no doubt that the Genesis account was true, yet today the inroads of evolution, theistic evolution, etc. have caused their damage, even in conservative circles.

 

Historical theology is seen in the fact that the canon of Scripture was set many years after the day of Pentecost. Also it can be seen in the discussions of Christ’s natures many years later.

 

Biblical Theology: That which may be known about God from the study of the progression of doctrine in the Scriptures. In other words — progressive revelation. (What did Adam know of God? What did Abraham know of God? Did they know about the Rapture? No. God revealed Himself more and more through history, however all that was needed, to know God, was revealed at each and every stage so none were less knowledgeable about what God required of them than any other person in history. (see Ryrie p 14 for more.)

 

Systematic Theology: That which may be known of God by collecting all Scriptures together on a given topic to show the teaching of the Bible on that topic.

 

Example: Concerning the inscription over Christ on the cross: Mark 15:26 states, “The King Of The Jews.” Luke 23:38 states, “This Is The King Of The Jews.” Matthew 27:37 states, “This Is Jesus, The King Of The Jews.”

 

 

John 19:19 states, “Jesus, Of Nazareth, The King Of The Jews.” It takes four verses to know exactly what the Bible says on the topic.

 

Systematic theology is a systematic study and collecting of all information concerning God while it is also a system of belief. All information is gathered and then assembled into a system which is structured in such a way that it allows for all Biblical facts to fit into the system. Each fact is an integrated part of the system. If a fact does not fit into the system, then the system must be reformed to allow the fact to fit. It has always amazed me that most Bible Colleges and Seminaries wait until the students second or third year to teach them the system into which all of their knowledge is to fit. It seems much wiser to give an overview of the system at the beginning so the student can begin, immediately, to fit their new knowledge into their belief system. It also allows them to begin to evaluate the system to be sure it is within the teaching of the Scriptures.

 

Practical theology: That which may be used of God in the lives of man by applying the truths of Scripture to their life. When I was first saved I knew the commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) The knowledge did not translate into action. For a long time, this commandment had no affect on my language. Later in my life the Lord began to work in my life, and this was one of the first practical applications of theology that He brought my way.

 

There are also theologies which are called Biblical but contain false teaching. Do not trust a title — look at the contents. We will look at a number of these in the study of Future things. (Dominion theology, Kingdom theology, Reconstruction theology.)

 

There are also some other areas of theology today. Pastoral theology, Christian Education theology, and contemporary theology. These use the term in our current ecclesiastical circles, though they are not technically a part of Biblical theology.

 

THE NECESSITY OF THEOLOGY

 

1. It is a means of expressing Christianity. This is being able to express beliefs in a logical, systematic order. This expression of belief is also termed “apologetic.”

 

 

2. It is a means to define Christianity. The systematizing of the facts into a system will automatically define the system.

 

3. It is a means to defend Christianity. It makes it much easier to show the truth of the Word.

 

4. It is a means to propagate Christianity. Because it is a system which works, people will listen.

 

PRESUPPOSITIONS

 

To study theology intelligently, we must presuppose that:

 

1. God exists and that He communicated to man His divine truth in the Scriptures.

 

We cannot prove God exists. We cannot prove He, if He exists, tried to call us on the phone. We cannot prove He communicated truth, if He called, and if He exists. Indeed, we cannot prove that God didn’t call when we were out and leave a humorous message on our answering machine. However, We believe God exists. We believe God communicated. We believe God communicated truth. We believe God communicated truth to man. Why do we believe these things? We must, based on the Word, presuppose it is true. We must believe it is true. We must act upon it as truth, by faith.

 

2. We must follow some precise methods to discover what that divine truth is. Laws of methodology are essential, in that if they aren’t followed the result of the study of the theologian will be in error and will be imprecise. These laws of methodology, if they be correct laws, will result in a precise, meaningful drawing out of information which, when assembled, will make up a precise package of truth. This requires much labor. It is a systematic way of doing things and requires an attitude similar to that of a scientist in that each step is precisely completed. This means that no portion is overemphasized or underemphasized. To do either would be to distort the truth.

 

There are basically two methods of dealing with God’s Word — deduction and induction. Deduction is basically drawing out facts and details from the passages, then assembling them into a meaningful message. Induction is drawing together from several Scriptures or sources and making one overall statement which fairly represents all the passages.

 

You must consider the context, grammar, historical setting, author and the recipients. In other words, systematic study. In electronics you can pick up two wires and have an experience. In Bible reading you can flop it open and have an experience. However, a study of the theories of electricity or a systematic study of the Bible will give GOOD knowledge.

 

3. God is an infinite Being, and as a result is communicating infinite things to us. This requires that we have understanding from an infinite source, for we are finite beings. (Infinite means immeasurable or non-ending, while finite means having measurable limits. Illustration: You cannot communicate the Gospel to a newborn child. Their knowledge and understanding are so limited that they cannot comprehend.) We have the help of the Holy Spirit in comprehending God’s message to us. We must give diligence to our study and wait upon the Lord for the understanding that we need. We often label things as something that we cannot understand today, yet we have not really put forth the effort to see what all of Scripture has to say about it. We must study to seek those things which we, at first, do not understand.

 

4. We must understand that what is received in this, or any course of systematic theology, can be ruffly equivalent to receiving a hammer and nail and being ask to build a house. We are only skimming the surface of these great doctrines, and you will go forth in your future to study and study and study some more — hopefully to begin to understand properly, all of what God has communicated to us.

 

5. A complete faith in the above is also a presupposition that must be in place. If a person has doubts and fears there will be problems in producing a proper theology. Even before this, faith must bring the person to the point of regeneration at which time the Holy Spirit comes to dwell and illuminate. Without faith there can be no proper theology. That is why we have the theology of hope today. (I hope there was a Jesus — I hope that He died for me.) This theology grew out of a lost man’s desperate attempt to understand Scripture. It is a good idea — except that it is wrong. He had no help from God to understand the message.

 

 

DIVISIONS OF THEOLOGY

 

Bibliology: A study of the Bible. (Comes from “biblos” meaning book.)

 

Theology Proper: A study of God. (Comes from “theos” and “logos” meaning God and expression.)

 

Christology: A study of Christ. (Comes from “Christos”)

 

Pneumatology: A study of the Holy Spirit. (Comes from “pneuma” meaning spirit.)

 

Hamartiology: A study of sin. (Comes from “Hamartia”)

 

Anthropology: A study of man. (Comes from “anthropos” meaning man.)

 

Soteriology: A study of salvation. (Comes from “soteria” meaning salvation.)

 

Angelology: A study of angels. (Comes from “angelos” meaning messenger.)

 

Ecclesiology: A study of the church. (Comes from “ecclesea” meaning assembly.)

 

Eschatology: A study of end times events. (Comes from “eschatos” meaning last.)

 

REQUIREMENTS OF THE THEOLOGIAN

 

1. Saved: The natural man does not understand, nor appreciate the truths of the Scriptures, however the saved person can understand and appreciate what God is trying to communicate to him. 1 Corinthians 2:14 states:

 

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

 

2. Spiritual: The theologian must not only be saved but he must be growing in the Lord and walking with the One that he seeks to know. (1 Corinthians 3:1 indicates that the understanding of the spiritual vs the carnal Christian is different. Hebrews 5:11 also.) Growing AND walking are needed to be a good theologian.

 

 

3. Studious: 2 Timothy 2:15 states, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

 

There is labor to be given to the study of theology, and we must be willing to put forth that effort to understand fully and enjoy the truths that God has for us in this study.

 

I have gone through systematic theology in four colleges and seminaries. I have taught through the entire ten sections twice in a Bible Institute, yet I find that I am still playing with the surface of the topics involved.

 

SOME PRESENT DAY THOUGHT ON THEOLOGY

 

1. Rationalism: Rationalism is a form of philosophy which seeks to understand Scripture in light of reason. The extreme rationalist will reject scripture and hold to some other philosophy. There are rationalists in the “Born Again” camp as well. They do not reject all of scripture but when the Word gives them trouble they will reject it.

 

Example: During the Carter presidential campaign Mark Carter was ask how he felt about women preaching. He replied that he thought that it was all right. (After all, his sister was a charismatic evangelist.) The reporter mentioned that Paul seems to forbid it. Carter’s reply was that this was one place where he would disagree with Paul. That is rationalism — if you don’t like it you don’t do it.

 

This is where the homosexual “Christians” are, if they are indeed Christians. They have rejected the clear statements of Scripture and hold to what they want to hold to.

 

Fundamentalists even do the same thing when they don’t want to follow the Word. We find a rational reason to say no I don’t have to follow that. Example: “That is cultural” we don’t have to do that anymore. Example: “That was for the age of the law when Christ was still on the earth.” We don’t have to do that. Be very careful what you declare to be cultural, or what you declare to be for another dispensation.

 

2. Mysticism: Mysticism has had several outworkings in people’s lives. Some have beaten themselves, some have given up food, some have given up intimate relationships, and some have even sat long periods of time on top of flag poles. Mysticism is found in two forms, true and false. The false teaches that by working very hard to become holy, sooner or later you will become pious enough to come into a direct relationship with God. This relationship varies as to the how of it according to the philosophy followed. Some see it as a contact with God while others view it as contact with the Holy Spirit. With this close relationship the person has direct contact with, and revelation from, God.

 

True mysticism is supposed to be the enlightening which comes from the Holy Spirit to the believer. It is this connection with God that the Scriptures teach and none other.

 

3. Romanism: Romanism is also called “Traditionalism” by some, however it should be viewed as a separate category. Romanism places the Scripture on a very high level, yet they place other things on the same level, which is not proper. (Example: The words of Christ and the apostles which aren’t recorded in Scripture carry the same weight as Scripture.) What the Church says also carries the same weight as Scripture. The Pope as well, when he speaks officially, speaks with the authority of Scripture. (This is only at special times when he is commenting on doctrine and dogma.) This allows the Romanist hierarchy to accept or reject anything they want to, and their people will accept it as right and proper.

 

Frank Eberhardt, a missionary to Catholics in Philadelphia, who is a graduate of a Jesuit school in the East, stated that the normal priest gets about 49% of his information from Scripture and 51% from tradition. In the mass they use about 5% of Scripture in a three year cycle. This is the only Scripture read in mass.

 

In an article on devotions, Pope Paul II mentioned that he read a certain percentage from tradition, a percentage from Scripture and a percentage from a good Christian book.

 

4. Traditional Or Cultic: These people are similar to the Romanist, however are not Catholic. They have a similar idea. They elevate their own teachings to the level, or above the level of the Bible. Some in this category would be the Mormons, the Christian Scientists, and some of the cults that place their leaders teaching before, or equal to, the Scriptures.

 

 

5. Orthodoxy: The orthodox protestant position holds to certain things concerning the Scriptures.

 

a. The Bible is accepted as the infallible Word of God.

 

b. It is the ONLY rule for faith and practice.

 

c. All information, be it scientific or philosophical, must become subject to the Scriptures.

 

d. There is no super enlightenment, or informing, or any further revelation given. The Scripture is complete as it exists.

 

e. The Scriptures are the truth and no man, nor organization, has been given authority to expand that truth.

 

LIMITATIONS OF THEOLOGY

 

Pardington lists six items that limit theology. I will list these with a few comments. (Pardington, Revelation George P. Ph.D.; “Outline Studies In Christian Doctrine”; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 18ff)

 

1. “In the finiteness of the human mind: Job 11.7; Romans 11.33.”

 

We as finite beings cannot fully understand an infinite Being [God] or His infinite message. This is the reason the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to illuminate and lead us into the truths of the message.

 

2. “In the imperfect state of science:”

 

Science and revelation come from the same creative hand [God], so must coincide. If the two contradict it must result from the improper understanding of science. This has been proven over and over in history. Man has had a misunderstanding of the scientific evidence so assumes that the Scripture is in error. This is backwards to the one that believes the Bible to be true. We would assume that the scientific evidence is in error.

 

3. “In the inadequacy of human language: 1 Corinthians 2.13; 2 Corinthians

3.5,6; 12.4.”

 

God revealed to man, and man placed those thoughts into writing. These writings were correct. The problem comes when man reads those writings and misunderstands what he has read. Language is imprecise, so we must be very careful in our study.

 

4. “In the incompleteness of our knowledge of the Scriptures: Psalm 119.18; Luke 24.32, 45.”

 

We cannot know the entirety of the Scriptures, thus we cannot really have a complete knowledge of the Scriptures. As we learn from the Word, we add that information to what we already know. If the new information conflicts with previous knowledge, then we must evaluate our understanding of the new and the old and determine how the two fit together.

 

5. “In the silence of the written revelation: Deuteronomy 29.29; Luke 13.23, 24; John 13.7; 1 Corinthians 2.9.”

 

Many things might come to mind to support this thought. The little information concerning Mary the mother of Jesus; the origin of evil; the state of the dead; etc. We would like more information, yet the Lord did not choose to reveal it to us.

 

6. “In the lack of spiritual discernment caused by sin:”

 

Some great strides in theology were made after the reformation because the people were truly seeking after God and His righteousness.

 

If you wonder why churches in America are dead and complacent take a look at the pastors of the Churches of America. There may be a relationship.

 

The growing churches of this country are quite often those with pastors that are on fire for the Lord. This is not to say that all dead churches have dead pastors for there are live wire pastors that are in dead churches trying to stir things up. I had a friend that pastored a church for three years without pumping any life into it. They were not interested in missions, nor evangelism. They were together as a church for the social interaction among themselves. The pastor finally left after his district director recommended that he move on before he became a part of the deadness.

 

We aren’t producing any great new thought spiritually today. Indeed, the books that I have been reading are just restatements of past truths in new ways. This is why our churches are weak. They have no new meat coming from the pulpits of our churches.

 

In viewing book stores recently, I have noticed the commentary section is no only Bible study books — very few commentaries. The reference book sections are only a small shelf if that big. Our churches are not spuring believers on to study for themselves.

 

It is our responsibility as theologians to reduce the effect of these items on our study. We must be constantly on guard to be precise and complete in our studies of the Word.

 

Chafer mentions how important theology is on pp 16-17 of Volume I. He stresses that the theologian must major on theology as the lawyer majors on law. He quotes Dr. Dick in this area of theology. “It should be your ambition to excel.”[1]

 


[1] by Stanley L. Derickson. DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

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