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God and His Word

Course Description

Study of the doctrine of Scripture, including inspiration, inerrancy, and the principles of biblical interpretation, as well as the person, works, and attributes of God and His relation to the created order.

Instructor: Dr. Michael Williams

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Lecture 1 – What is Theology?

Key Terms
Sapientia (wisdom), scientia (reasoning knowledge, science, concrete answers), praxis (ethics, moral values), objectivism( belief that theology is beyond the human mind, that it was all already given by God), subjectivism (relativism, belief that theology is limited to what we know), homoousios, homoiousios
Objectives
*List and describe definitions of theology in the early church.
*Discuss the need and purpose of theology.
*Explain the importance of the different branches of theology.

This course is ‘God and His Word’ and it is described this way in our catalogue: “An introduction to
theology and hermeneutics and a study of the doctrines of revelation, Scripture, and God.”

? What is hermeneutics? A: The branch of theology that deals with principles of exegesis (an explanation or critical interpretation)
I. What is Theology?

This general definition of theology really conformed to the classic Greek use of the word,
which is a combination of two terms: theos and logos. Logos: ‘the study of’ or ‘a word about.’ Theos:
‘god’, ‘a word about god.’
A. Definitions within the history of the early church
1. Wisdom: sapientia
2. Cognitive knowledge: scientia

– The emphasis of theology for the early church was upon a personal, relational knowledge, also known as “spirituality”.

3. Ethics: praxis
4. Theology includes all three (faithful knowing, thinking, and acting).

-theology as spirituality (knowing who); theology as thinking right about doctrine (knowing what or knowing that); and theology as ethics (Christian action, knowing how).

?What is the purpose of both the knowledge of God and our relationship to God? A:That we might be active
proponents of His kingdom and active participants in seeking that kingdom. In other words, knowing
who, knowing what, and knowing how are all intimately connected, and trying to separate them or
identify theology with one of them is purely reductionistic.
B. Cognitive knowledge: reductionistic definitions
1. Subjectivist understanding (liberal)

– classical liberalism

– Reduce theology to the subjective, that theology does not exist outside of man’s religious consciousness.

– The liberal definition is hopelessly relativistic and subjectivistic.

2. Objectivist understanding (evangelical)

– given by the Bible itself as the revelation of God.

– believes that theology is completely objective.

– Problem for it confuses theology and revelation. It sees the two as being the same thing and, as such, it always runs the risk of falling into a belief that only one is right and overbearing pride and presumption.

– Evangelicalism forgets that theology is just a human discipline.

“Theology is that which is thought and said about God. True theology is thus given by the Bible itself as
the revelation of God in human terms.” Geoffrey Bromiley

Our reflections, interpretations of the Bible are never inspired, never perfect. We cannot take interpretatinos and say they are absolute.


C. Theology as a reflection on revelation, the reception and interpretation of revelation
1. Distinction between theology and revelation

a. Revelation: God’s declaration of His character, ways, and will within creaturely
existence; who God is.
b. (Humans do)Theology: a disciplined, extra-biblical reflection upon revelation and the people
of God’s historic response to revelation; something we do.
“[Theology is] a form of human reflection, the application of human consciousness to the data of
biblical revelation and to earlier ecclesiastical understandings of those data.” John Jefferson Davis

2. Faith seeking understanding. Anselm of Canterbury

3. What can we conclude?
a. Scripture has a normative priority over our theological insights, conclusions,
and systems.
b. We can be properly humble about our theologies.

– Our theologies must always be open. We need to always place the Word of God above all our theologies, our ideas.

II. What is the Need and Purpose of Theology?

? Why not just do away with human theology? Why have these seminary classes? A: Although the word theology does not appear in the Bible, the word ‘doctrine,’ however, and the Greek word is didache, does appear in Scripture. It is often translated as ‘teaching.’ Doctrine, teaching, is the content of the Christian religion.
A. Doctrine and the Christian faith

-The Christian faith has discernable contours that differentiate it from any other religious system or philosophical school, and those contours are found in its doctrine. Christians do not put their faith in faith; we put our faith in Jesus.

1. The centrality of doctrine
It is the foundation of the Christian religion.

The fact is, without a knowledge of His person, without a knowledge of His work, our affirmation of Him is hollow. It’s not biblical faith at all then, it is merely sentiment.

– Without doctrine, the Bible, we wouldn’t know about Jesus, about the importance of Him coming. If we say we accept Jesus but don’t know anything about the contents of the Bible, then it is not real faith that we have, but emotional, not founded on proof.
2. The nature of doctrine (accepted belief)
It is identical to biblical revelation.

– The Bible is a narrative, a story; the grand story of God’s relationship with His creation. The Bible is a revelation that
functions in terms of a declaration of God’s mighty acts, of His deeds, and God’s words.

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What we see in Scripture over and over again is:

1. Word of promise- God tells us what He is going to do.

2。 Then an act of fulfillment- God then does what He said He was going to do.

3. A word of explanation- interprets what God just did.

These all go together as doctrine!

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It is a word and deeds revelation.
“The primary referent of Christian doctrine is an historical event, rather than any static or timeless
concepts.” Alister McGrath

Christianity is not about ideas; it is fundamentally, as we will argue in this course, about persons and events.

Doctrine(the didache) embraces both the story and the explanation of the story.
B. How do we get from doctrine to theology? (from the teaching to our reflection upon revelation)

We must look at the early church.

-The early church quite naturally moved toward theological reflection and it did so for a number of good reasons.
1. Catechetics (discipleship)

After all, the Christian faith is primarily about our living out the
faith in such a way that the truth shines in the world, in such a way that we draw others to the faith, in
such a way that God’s kingdom rule comes to fruition, to manifestation in our lives.
2. Thinking through our faith, or “faith seeking understanding”

The Christian faith always wants as far as it is
possible to understand, to apply, to contextualize. Who is Jesus? What did He do? Why is that
important? The study of theology arose to help give Christians coherent and faithful answers to these
questions. In other words, the discipline of theology arose to help us think through our faith.
“We are to love the Lord with our minds as well as our hearts. Through its distinctions and definitions,
linguistics and logic, its study of history and hermeneutics, theology helps to clarify belief. Bearing in
mind that Christians are stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1), theology seeks to make
those mysteries as meaningful as possible to the greater service of God.” Eugene Osterhaven

Now the mysteries of
God, which are spoken of in I Corinthians 4:1, are of course centered in Jesus Christ. But they also
include such fundamental questions as: Who is the God with whom we have to do? Why are we here?
What are we? What is wrong with our world and with our lives? How are we made right? What is a
well-lived life? What is the nature of human destiny? What is God doing? And where is He going with
history, with creation? Christian theology seeks to tell the truth about those questions so that we can live
in the light of that truth. If you think about those questions, not one of them can be answered in a prooftextish
kind of way, simply citing one biblical text. You are going to have to think your way through the
faith. You are going to have to do some fundamental synthesis.
3. Positive aspect of theological reflection

Theological reflection has a positive
value in that its primary purpose is to help us think through the faith, to grow our understanding of
God’s character, His ways, His expectations of His people.
4. Negative aspect: the exposure of falsehood and the refutation of heresy
a. Apologetics and polemics

A polemic is an argument against, a refutation of what is
considered false. An apologetic is an argument for, or on behalf of, an argument on behalf of what is
considered true.
b. The positive effects of falsehood

the historical effects of forcing the church to articulate itself, to think through its
faith, clearly and comprehensively.
5. Correcting our misperceptions

The discipline and discernment, however, of the theological tasks help me to test the spirit, help me
to be critical of what I would like to hear, and to be more realistic with what is actually there. Thus Paul
reminded Titus that leaders of the churches must be able to both give instruction in sound doctrine and
refute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9) and I think we need to apply that to ourselves personally as
well.

– I need to be able to be critical of what I hear and see God’s word for what it is, not what I want it to be.
III. What is the Goal of Theological Study?

Theology is a disciplined study which seeks to proclaim the Christian faith by focusing upon
God’s revelation and the church’s historic response to that revelation.

Good theology proclaims the truth about Jesus.
But it also explores the significance of that truth for our lives.
A. Biblical knowing
1. Knowing who (sapientia)- intimacy with God.
2. Knowing that (scientia)- knowledge of God.
3. Knowing how (praxis)- right action in the world.
B. Defending the faith

– By proving that it is true.
C. Refuting error

– By proving the challenges against the Bible false.

To know God is to know things about Him.
To know God is to know Him personally. To know God is to obey Him. And it cannot ever be seperated.

I think it is unfortunate that theology has been narrowed to the purely cognitive, the purely
dispersive. It is almost as if we would like to think that spirituality and ethics can be done in a theologyfree
zone, as if knowing God is unrelated to knowing the facts about God. Can I say I know my wife if I
cannot tell you her birthday, or what color her eyes are, if I cannot pick her out of a crowd? Can we say
we know Jesus if we cannot differentiate between Him and Mao, or anyone else? So, all three of these
are quintessential to both knowing and theology.

I like the example he uses of his wife!

Overall, had a great first lesson! I learned so much about Theology and have come to appreciate it much more than I had before. I’m looking forward to the next lesson!

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