Theology at one time in our history was important in the Sciences, however
this is not true in all circles today.
Thiessen in his systematic theology states, "Until rather recent times
Theology was considered the queen of the sciences and Systematic Theology
the crown of the queen. But today the generality of so-called theological
scholarship denies that it is a science and certainly the idea that it is
the queen of the sciences." (Thiessen, Henry C.; "LECTURES IN SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY";
Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1949, p 23)
When they speak of the Sciences, what do they mean? Math, biology, chemistry,
electronics, logic etc. are considered Sciences. What are the Arts? Psychology,
language, history, art, philosophy, etc. are the Arts.
What are the Sciences based on? The Sciences are based on discoverable
fact, known fact, systematic research, principles of fact finding, etc. Upon
what are the Arts based? The Arts are based on thought, creativity of the
mind and hand, philosophy, etc.
The study of Sciences in college leads to a Bachelor of Science degree,
while the study of the Arts leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Since most
Bible Colleges give B.A. degrees, they must feel that the study of the Bible
and theology is in the area of thought and philosophy, or the Arts.
In the thinking of the world this classification is correct. However if
we feel that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and correct in all that
it says, then we would determine our study from the facts and not thought.
This would technically place us within the idea of the Sciences. Indeed,
I have run across a Bible college or two that offer the B.S. degree rather
than the B.A.
James Orr in 1909 stated, "Every one must be aware there is at the present
time a great prejudice against doctrine - or, as it is often called 'Dogma'
- in religion; a great distrust and dislike of clear and systematic thinking
about divine things. Men prefer one cannot help seeing, to live in a region
of haze and indefiniteness in regard to these matters. They want their thinking
to be fluid and indefinite - something that can be changed with the times,
and with the new lights which they think are being constantly brought to
bear upon it, continually taking on new forms, and leaving the old behind."
(Orr, James; "SIDELIGHTS ON CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE"; London: p 3)
THIS WAS SPOKEN ALMOST 80 YEARS AGO! HOW MUCH MORE TRUE IT IS TODAY!
Does this sound like the electronic church of today - don't bug me with
the facts - I want experience? One Charismatic mentioned that fundamentalists
should box their brains up and shoot them into outer space - they let their
minds control them. Let yourself go. Now, is he not in essence saying you
have to be mindless to be like he is? Sounds somewhat like rationalism which
we will see later.
In the past all sciences allowed for God within their ideas, however today
very few sciences allow for God of any kind and have replaced Him with man.
Does that remind you of any passages in Scripture? Rom. 1:21-23, "Because,
when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful,
but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory
of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and birds,
and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." Americans have turned to humanism
for their religion! How long before they turn to animals, beasts, and creeping
What does the word "PROLEGOMENA" mean? "PROLEGOMENA" comes from two Greek
words. "pro" meaning before & "legein" which means to speak - "to say
before" says, Webster. (4302 in Strong's is the base word "prolego". II Cor
13:2; Gal 5:21; I Thess 3:4. These are the only usages in the New Testament.)
Ryrie states of the prolegomena, "It furnishes the author with the opportunity
to let his readers know something of the general plan he has in mind, both
its extent and limitations, as well as some of the presuppositions of his
thinking and the procedures he plans to use." (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie,
Charles C.; "BASIC THEOLOGY"; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 13)
Prolegomena is a twenty-five dollar word for preface or introduction that
allows you to impress people.
As we move along we need to understand some words.
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,
TYPES OF THEOLOGY TO BE VIEWED:
Natural theology: That which man may know about God by viewing the creation
of God. (Ps 19:1-5, Acts 14:17, and Rom. 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.
(I Cor. 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: Mk. 15:26
states, "THE KING OF THE JEWS." Lu. 23:38 states, "THIS IS THE KING OF THE
JEWS." Mat. 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." (Ex 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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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. I Cor. 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. (I Cor. 3:1 indicates
that the understanding of the spiritual vs the carnal Christian is different.
Heb. 5:11 also.) Growing AND walking are needed to be a good theologian.
3. STUDIOUS: II Tim. 2:15 states, "Study to show thyself approved unto
God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of
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 Mr. 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
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, Rev. 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; Rom. 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: I Cor. 2.13; II Cor. 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: Psa. 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: Deut. 29.29; Luke 13.23,
24; John 13.7; I Cor. 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 ov 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