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Lecture 2 – What is Theology? (cont.)
“Be careful when you go to seminary that it doesn’t undermine your faith.”
Many giving ‘advice’ to sincere believers going to seminaries
Key Terms
Sapientia, scientia, praxis, objectivism, subjectivism, homoousios (of the Father), homoiousios (similiar)
*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.
What is Theology? (cont.)
IV. Objections to Theology
A. Does the study of theology undermine our faith? Where does our fear of theology come

– Many Christians dislike and distrust theological study.
B. Commitments about the nature of theology

Objection 1: God and His Word are to be enjoyed, not studied. This objection can come
from a bias toward subjective and emotional understanding of the faith, that
Christianity is about feelings, not facts.

– Many Christians see Theology as needless, joyless.

Sometimes popular (for lack of a
better term), revivalist, or pietous strains of the Christian faith have inculcated the idea that what is
really important is not what I think, but how I feel about Jesus, and whether those feelings have any
connections to the truth is secondary.

– Being a Christian does not mean to have certain emotional feelings for music.

– No one remembers the sermon, but everyone remembers the music.

– One falsehood we have fallen into is the depths of our emotions connected to our relationship with God.
Sometimes popular (for lack of a
better term), revivalist, or pietous strains of the Christian faith have inculcated the idea that what is
really important is not what I think, but how I feel about Jesus, and whether those feelings have any
connections to the truth is secondary.

We have fallen into the idea
that what matters is the depth of our sentiments. My own response would go something like this:
millions of people believe and believe with all their hearts that racism is good and proper. That does not
make it true. Millions of people believe and believe with all their hearts that artificially ending the lives
of the unborn is good and proper and a means of human wholeness and freedom. It does not make it
true. Depth of sentiment and depth of sentiment for Jesus is good. I hope you have it. But it is neither
self-sufficient, nor is it self-authenticating.

Christian faith is not based on just feelings alone. Just because millions of people believe abortion is good does not mean it is good.

A common version of this objection is that Christian faith should be childlike. Are we not supposed to be like children and not question everything? The people who raise this objection often point to Jesus’ acceptance of little children when He held them up as examples of those who would enter the kingdom
of God. But they overlook that the apostle Paul commended the Christians of Berea because they
examined the Gospel of Christ in light of the Hebrew Scriptures and that they looked at them critically
before accepting them (Acts 17).

– Good theology does not deny the humble acceptance before God; standing before the throne of God, child-like. Good theology does, however, push beyond blind acceptance.

Objection 2: Doctrine divides people and causes strife.

– Doctrine does divide. Love does not mean tolerance. The most loving thing is to have the courage to speak the truth.

a. Christians are called to judge what is true.
b. Example: Council of Nicea (325 A.D.)

The early church debated such issues as whether Jesus was merely a man or somehow far more, perhaps
even God. And that debate would take the better part of two hundred years. And before it was done, it
would declare many beliefs, many statements about Jesus, and many groups who were saying many
statements about Jesus, heretical. That brought huge controversy into the church. Before it was done, it
would necessitate the first church-wide ecumenical council.

The year was 325 A.D., and the place was
Nicea. One of the heroes of Nicea was a man named Athanasius. He was a champion of the position that
Jesus is homoousios—‘of the Father’, ‘of the same essence’; you see ‘same essence’ here in Greek. The
other major party at Nicea was the Arian party. The Arians said that Jesus is not of the same essence.
Rather He is of similar essence, homoiousios—‘similar’, ‘similar essence’, or ‘like essence’. Notice the
difference in these two words, how similar they are. The difference is an ‘iota’, a little ‘i’, the letter ‘i’.
But what a difference! The difference between a creature, which the Arians said Jesus was, and being
God, which Athanasius and the orthodox party said Jesus was. Now when Athanasius refused to
compromise, sometimes he had so few allies that the motto ‘Athanasius against the world’ became
something of a joke in fourth-century northern Africa. He would spend over forty years of his bishopric
in exile. He was a hunted man, a hounded man, and he has come down to us as a belligerent, divisive,
hair-splitting fundamentalist, a man who would bring down the entire church over a single ‘iota.’ But
Athanasius was right. And on his rightness hung the very deity of Christ, and the trinitarian reality of

– Debating, arguing what is right between fellow believers is necessary to protect the truth.

– Most of the differences are not as decisive as this issue, like denominations.
“The primary purpose of truth, of theology is not to divide, nor to unite, but to discover and protect the
truth.” Martin Luther
Objection 3: Theology leads to nothing but useless speculation.

– Theology is often too speculative ( likes to argue with people)

– In order to be a faithful servant of God we do not need a degree or a masters; do not become proud of your achievements.
Objection 4: It’s all just your interpretation.

In its simplest terms, let me answer the objection by saying that
the Bible is meant as God’s communication to man. He expects it to be read. He expects it to be
understood. If we really want to say no one can understand it (the Word), I think we have passed a judgment on
God’s ability as communicator. Later, we will make the point that reading the Bible well, understanding
it, is work; it is hard work. But it is work we are commanded to do. God is a good communicator, but we
are going to have to work to hear it, not because what He’s saying is vague but because we have so
much gobbledygook between the Word and us.
Objection 5: Truth is self-evident.

Well, nothing in life worth having comes automatically. And
there is nothing automatic about the Christian faith. No one in this room is a Christian simply because
your parents are Christians or because you went to a Christian school or you were catechetized (oral religious instruction). It is not
Christianity in a can. God wants us to be able to know, to give an account, for the faith that is in us.

– To know the truth, we need to strive for it. Just because we are Christian does not mean the truth will come to us. God expects us to demonstrate our faith by action.
C. Psychological dispositions which function as objections
1. Laziness

– We are lazy, and live in a culture that does not devote any time to what we do.

– Too many of us do not devote the time spent to scripture to what we spend on other things.
2. Fear of subjecting our biases to criticism

– Many of us are scared of discovering truth that would undermine what we believe.
3. Irrelevant to life in the “real world”

– believing that Christianity is boring. We, the believers, have made the faith boring. We fail to communicate it well.
V. What is Systematic Theology?

There is no systematic theology in the Bible. Any theological
system is a complex product of culturally conditioned methodologies and presuppositions. It is the
product of an engagement with the biblical text; it is a product of the testing of the confessional heritage
of the church; it is a product of the testing of ideas in the marketplace and in the life of the people of
God. The fact is there are many steps or theological functions between the biblical text and any system
of thought. Some of those steps, some of those functions, have been institutionalized within a systematic
theology or theological curriculum.
A. The branches of theology
1. Exegetical (critical interpretation) theology

– His job is asking, what does the text (word, literature) mean? In the many different languages.

– focuses on specific passages
2. Biblical theology

– Deals with history of God’s dealing with creation. Also looks at the text, but asks, what is the story behind the text?

– Focuses on Historical features.
3. Historical theology

– Focuses on history of God’s people and their engagement with Scripture; focuses on the post-biblical story (After the Bible)
4. Systematic theology

While exegetical theology focuses on specific passages, and biblical theology on the
historical features, and historical on the post-biblical story, systematic theology seeks to bring it all
together, to synthesize them. Systematics asks, “What does it all add up to?”
5. Practical (or pastoral) theology

– Any theology well-done is practical. Practical theology is no less or no more practical than the other theologies.

In fact, a better term than practical theology
would be pastoral theology. The pastoral theologian concentrates on the study of the ministries of the
church: preaching, counseling, missions, evangelism, worship. You might even think of pastoral
theology as applied ecclesiology.
B. Characteristics of systematic theology
1. Synthetic (made artificially)

– Draws from all the theologies.
2. Topical

– What does it all add up to? (for the topic)
3. Contextual

relating Christian faith to the contemporary (modern) world.
4. Prescriptive ( it aims for what we believe, instead of here are the options)
a. A peculiarly ecclesiastical discipline (a theology done for, by, and under the church)
b. A peculiarly confessional discipline (a theology done in light of the historic
response of the people of God to the Word of God)
C. The traditional loci (way)of systematics

**Familiarize yourself with these words**
1. Prolegomena (a first word, a preceding word): includes theological method and epistemology (how do you know?)  (often including the
doctrine of Scripture)
2. Theology proper: the doctrine of God
3. Anthropology: the doctrine of man
4. Hamartiology: the doctrine of sin
5. Christology: the doctrine of Christ
6. Soteriology: the doctrine of salvation
7. Pneumatology: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
8. Ecclesiology: the doctrine of the church
9. Eschatology: the doctrine of last things (escha- last)
10. Hermeneutics: the science of biblical interpretation
11. Ethics: the study of the principles of right conduct
12. Apologetics: the study of the defense of the Christian faith
D. The exegetical-theological method

At Covenant, however, we are committed to—and I will argue this a bit more fully
later—the idea that rather than starting with the confession of faith, we work toward a confession of
faith. We start with Scripture, we believe in the principle of sola scriptura; it presses in upon us that the
Bible is our sure norm, our final source of authority.

– This statement is true since how can we claim to have faith in something we do not know intimately?

Questions & Answers

1.Q: Would you consider Paul a theologian?

A: No, because there is no one definition of theology.

2.Q: Is every Christian a theologian? Or if not, should they be?

A: No. That little old lady, sitting in Minnesota, when she opens her Bible to
have her devotions, to find a word from her Lord, she is not trying to be a theologian. She is not
responding to it that way. She is not engaging it that way.

We are not all called to the same thing.

The theologian’s
job is to attend to the text, to ask those questions, to guide the people of God. We are not all called to it.
We are all called to know it as well as we can but we all have a lot of different callings in life. Some of
us are called to be farmers and to farm unto the Lord. Some of us are called to raise children. Others are
called to be medical practitioners and we will not have the time, we will not have the resources, to give
to the study of the Word of God and to the theological arts. Some of us, however, are called to that and
we do that for the sake of all. So I would—again somewhat artificially—tend to think of theology as an
academic discipline. But one of the things that protects us is the recognition that our response to God
and to His Word cuts across the entirety of life, cuts across all the different ways that human beings

3.Q: Are women called to be theologians?

A: Yes, it
comes under the sovereignty of the church, but I do not believe that it is necessarily the case that a
theologian be a member of the clergy. As a matter of fact, not every member of our faculty is a cleric.
Now that is in the context of the PCA, restricting the office of elder to the male, but the office of elder
and the academic office of theologian are not the same.

4.Q: Are liberal theologians Christians?

A: I think we tend use the word ‘liberal’ in a very nebulous way. I am going to
answer it this way: yes, some liberals are Christians; some conservatives are not. What if someone does
not believe in the resurrection, if someone does not believe in the exodus? I dislike the idea of trying to
create a list of essentials, of fundamentals, because the Word of God seeks for us to affirm the whole
council of God rather than a small list of things. However, it is conceivable that someone could deny the
exodus and be a Christian. We can be very confused about the nature and counsel of the Word of God.
This should not scare us at all because the issue here is God’s grace, not what I say about it. We are
going to be surprised when we are all together in the kingdom of God, in its fullness and we look around
and see who is going to be there. “You mean that guy made it, even with what he said? And that church
over there, what a bunch of jerks!” I think that is going to be the reality, and the fact of the matter is that
every person there, every group there, is there by the grace of God and no other reason. Again, it is not
because of the great things I said about Jesus; it is the great thing that Jesus said on my behalf to the

5.Q: What is the relationship between theology and worldview?

A: Theology is not everything, even within the Christian
environment. I am a theologian. I do not know beans about raising hogs and I cannot tell people how to do it even though I lived in Iowa. There are a lot of things I do not know anything about and a Christian worldview is very, very big. It is a comprehensive collection of beliefs and presuppositions about the
nature of reality and the elements of reality. Theology is one part of that.

– Just because someone is in theology does not mean that person knows more than someone who is not in theology.

worldview is as appropriate to the political as it is to the theological. It is open to economic analysis as
well as theological analysis. However, there is one thing that stands over all of those: revelation. Again,
this is another reason why I should not confuse theology with revelation. God’s Word is a word for all of
life: for farming, for electricians, for economics, for child-rearing, for sexuality, for all the rest.

Lesson end.


– This was another very eye opening lesson! I learned that arguing and debating between Christians is also very necessary, but still need to be careful not to argue over the little matters that do that change God’s plan. Another thing I learned is that Theology is not everything, and that just because someone took theology does not give him more authority over someone who did not take theology. Theology does not mean revelation.

– No one remembers the sermon (not all the time), but everyone remembers the music. Music is important and must be combined together with the Word.

Thank You God for another fun and exciting lesson!