Monday, January 17, 2011

Who Needs Theology?

By D. Adams
September 05, 2006

How many times have we heard an individual make such brassy claims as…“Who needs theology, I have Jesus”? While this may seem fine outside the realm of academic study, as Christians we must have a real working knowledge of Christ. Today’s postmodern society issues a very broad term for Christianity. Who has the correct rendition of Christianity? The study of theology will help facilitate such issues.

Christianity Under Constant Attack

Grounds for the study of theology can stem from the barraged attempts against Christianity by skeptics, liberals, higher criticism, counter-missionaries, Unitarians, Watchtower society, historical revisionists, atheists, and last but not least the Christ-mythicists (claiming a historical Jesus did not exist). The time has come today for the average lay Christian to be able to give an answer to why he or she has faith. The study of theology--I feel--is the cornerstone that assists us in answering the opposition, and is crucial in our Christian journey.
“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 3:16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Is the hope you possess merely a heartfelt attachment? Is your hope based upon what your parents believed? Do you actually love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? (Deut.6:5; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). Is this type of love humanly possible without being able to physically see or touch Jesus or God? We will discuss this very question later in this article.
So how do we love our Lord, our God with all our heart, mind, and soul?
A deep study of the Bible is one of the best ways we can know God, through his word. God spoke these words to the author for them to be able to put them in writing. The verbal plenary view of inspiration presumes the measure; 100% from God and 100% written by man (while acknowledging mans characteristics). So how does theology fall into importance? Firstly, let us acknowledge that everyone has a theology. Religion does not solely hold a trademark for the term theology. Christian theology in its very basic form is the rational and systematic study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truth.

Reduced To Sensory Perceptions?

Our postmodern society seems to place a zealous emphasis pertinent to the five senses. Some may go as far as basing their epistemology based solely upon these five senses. We can surmise that senses alone would not constitute infallible ways of distinguishing intellect and this line of thinking can be very dangerous, as we will soon find out.

We must first recognize that some things cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. These so-called invisible things can be tested, and of course, the results have to be interpreted by fallible humans. For example, let us look at Radon Gas; this gas is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless yet deadly gas that is classified as a human carcinogen according to the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC 1988). Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking, accounting for 15,000 to 22,000 cancer deaths per year in the US alone according to the National Cancer Institute (USA). [2]

This toxic gas exists, whether we can detect it with any of the five senses. Solely relying on the five senses can lead to disastrous results in some cases such as Radon gas poisoning. The quondam cliché thinking of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” would not apply to Radon. For the skeptic, this application (Radon) of reasoning may be associated with slippery slope thinking, nevertheless, some things just cannot be seen, touched, smelled, heard, or tasted. Relying on the five senses can be dangerous in some cases, whether it’s to find truth, or thinking everything is copasetic.

Why Theology?

Let’s define what Theology is, as it pertains to Christianity:
“The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice; divinity; (as more commonly understood) the knowledge derivable from the Scriptures, the systematic exhibition of revealed truth, the science of Christian faith and life.” –Webster’s Dictionary

The most elementary definition of theology is defined as; the study of God, or the systematic study of religion. The study of theology is of great importance if we want to be able to intercommunicate incisively within the body of Christ. If you would like to further your study of theology, I highly recommend The Theology Program (TTP). 

It would seem that some Christians might not bother learning theology or the history of Christianity. At one period, I also believed that theology could not possibly bring me closer to God. So, why bother?
The study of Theology:
·         Articulates the faith in a systematic and logical fashion
·         Defines the faith of early believers (Regula Fidei)
·         Approaches struggles of difficult issues needed for spiritual growth
·         Allows the reader to assimilate the meaning of the author (Historical-Grammatical method)
·         Adumbrates orthodoxy
·         Outlines the early churches (ecclesiology)
·         Delimitates the view of the Trinity (Theology proper)
·         Challenges the Christian mind to obtain the mind of Christ
·         Explores past and present cultures
·         Provides the foundation for apologetics (Defense of the faith)
·         Demonstrates the importance community and fellowship
·         Articulates the translations of the Bible over time
·         Sums up the reason behind the belief of scripture
The list goes on, and one should consider the advantages of studying theology. So now that we established the importance of theology, how does that bring us closer to God? Let’s break down the heart, soul, and mind.

The Heart

In OT physiology, the heart (levav, lev) was considered the seat of the mind or intellect, so that one could think with one’s heart. The NET Bible describes the heart (levav) as:
“The noun (levav, “heart”) functions here as a metonymy of association for the thoughts and emotions in the heart. The Hebrew (levav) includes the mind so that in some cases the translation “heart” implies an inappropriate division between the cognitive and affective. This context is certainly emotionally loaded, but as part of a series of admonitions to address God in prayer, these emotions are inextricably bound with the thoughts of the mind. The singular “heart” is retained in the translation to be consistent with the personification of Jerusalem.” [1]
The term cognitive is defined as the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning. The term affective is characterized by emotion. An equal balance between reasoning and the emotional ties must be in order. It is fine to have an emotional attachment, but we also need reason to guide us closer to God. Think of it like this; the emotional attachment (affective) is what drives us to become more Christ like—through being his hands and feet. Reason (cognitive) is the understanding and learning process—life experiences to grow in Christ. We come as humble children to Christ, but we strive to grow impertinent (boldly) in Christ. It seems difficult to have these thoughts and emotions in the heart without being able to see God. We can grow closer to God through careful study of scripture and grow through our experiences and struggles. However, we should not attempt to study and experience struggles on our own. This is where the conception of a community environment needs to take hold.

The Soul

Heb “soul”; “being.” Contrary to Hellenistic ideas of a soul that is discrete and separate from the body and spirit, OT anthropology equated the “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) with the person himself. It is therefore best in most cases to translate נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) as “being” or the like. See H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 10-25; D. Fredericks, NIDOTTE 3:133-34. For NT variations on the Shema see Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27. [1 ff]

The soul can be defined as the immaterial part of a person, deep feelings, or emotions. However you chose to look at defining the soul, it is imperative that we (as Christians) use these characteristics to actuate our relationships with non-believers and other Christians. We should have a very good working relationship with our soul. The soul is what makes us tick, our drive to become one with Jesus. The fuel, force, everlasting, and the energy that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Mind

The mind is important to putting together these writings of God, and the emotions that are involved. The mind helps us to discern the message from the Bible, and theology can lead the way. Theology is more than just reading a few passages to construct a premise. We must look at the context throughout the entire chapter, through the authors view, and the entire word of God. This takes a deeper study into the mind of Christ. Greg Koukl has a famous saying “Never read a Bible verse.” [3]
At first glance that key phrase may seem ridiculous, however if you read Mr. Koukl’s full article you will find that the context of a verse is found within the paragraph or chapter. This is why it is so imperative to study the Bible as a whole, not relying on a single Bible verse to form a theology. This type of reasoning (using a single verse) can lead to confusion and wrong interpretations of scripture. The Bible is a book of over 40 authors traversing a period of over 1500 years. The genres tend to change during the course of 1500 years, theories come and go, nevertheless God never changes, and neither does his word.