The Nature of Theology

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC δοῦλος, Mar 24, 2016.

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  1. JonC

    JonC
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    There are several definitions of theology. I understand theology to be the study of God, literally. But more than not we are speaking of systematic theology. Systematic theology is a discipline that addresses topics individually and in summary (it utilizes the bible as a whole to develop its doctrines). As such, I believe that theology itself is limited. It is limited to what is being revealed in Scripture. It is limited to our interpretations. It is limited to human reasoning and the capabilities of our finite minds.

    Another definition holds that theology is revealed by God by special revelation and also by illumination. If this theology is the theology revealed by God then it is objective (it is not swayed by man’s limitation).

    Awhile back the argument was made that God gave to the Church specific teachers (here speaking of Reformed theologians). Their teachings were given by God for the Church and are therefore absolute.

    What do you think? Does God reveal through special revelation theology as objective truth? Is there a theological system today that is not subject to the failings of man?
     
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  2. TCassidy

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    There are two types of theology we can study.

    Systematic Theology which is organized topically and logically and is an orderly, rational, and coherent account of our faith and beliefs.

    Biblical Theology is the study of the Bible in order to understand the progressive history of God revealing Himself to mankind following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament.

    Of the two, Biblical Theology is more objective but is also more difficult to study as it's order is not always as coherent as Systematic Theology.

    Emery Bancroft, the late Professor of Bible Doctrine and Systematic Theology at Baptist Bible College and Seminary, in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania (now Summit University) did a pretty good job of summarizing both systems in his book Christian Theology, Systematic and Biblical.
     
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  3. JonC

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    I always considered historical theology a bit separate, but I suppose it is really an examination of systematic theology and doctrinal development throughout history. While I agree that systematic theology is less objective than biblical theology, I think it is important to realize that neither are completely objective.

    My main question of this thread is about systematic theology and the development of doctrine (the question came from another thread involving systematic (not biblical) theology. Do you think it fair to say that theology is revealed by God through special revelation?
     
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  4. TCassidy

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    Yes, it would certainly apply to biblical theology. But even that is limited by the hermeneutic used to understand the text.
     
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  5. tyndale1946

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    Do you think it fair to say that theology is revealed by God through special revelation?... I do and I think we can see this illustration in the book of Acts relating to Philip and the Eunuch
     
  6. tyndale1946

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    I feel it does and can be further illustrated in the book of Acts in the story of Philip and eunuch?... Theology is revealed by God through special revelation and the revelation accomplishes all that God sends it to do... Those are my thoughts!... Brother Glen

    Acts 8:26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

    8:27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,

    8:28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

    8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

    8:30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?

    8:31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.

    8:32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

    8:33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

    8:34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

    8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
     
  7. JonC

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    There is a sense where I agree with you and a sense where I do not.

    I agree that God's revelation is unveiled through the work of the Spirit (as evidenced in this passage). However, I disagree that we can look to our theologies themselves as completely objective and given via special revelation (if that is what you mean beyond the illustration).

    In other words, and for illustration, God did not impart 5 point Calvinism (or Arminianism) as perfect and objective divine special revelation. What is unveiled is what has already been revealed to mankind. Both of those theological systems are less than completely objective (one may be right, but the weak point is human understanding and reasonable ).
     
  8. tyndale1946

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    And I agree but each theological system weather Calvinism/Arminianism is based on biblical truth and each believers in each camps interpretation of it... Does a persons interpretation of a biblical doctrine drive that individuals belief or does the belief drive the interpretation?... I'm assigned to the Calvinist camp because the doctrine is what I believe and my biblical interpretation of it... One of the most quoted verses on the face of this earth is John 3:16... The Arminian's see it one way and the Calvinist see it another way... What is the revealed biblical doctrinal truth?... Brother Glen
     
  9. JonC

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    I absolutely agree (and hopefully didn't turn this into a Cal/Arm debate, I am neither but it is an excellent illustration to use). Arminianism and Calvinism both have distinctive reasonings that come out in their theology (all theologies do). They also share many presuppositions. It is important, IMHO, to at least try to identify what we bring into the theology we hold.
     
  10. Iconoclast

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    "JonC

    I do not remember anyone making that statement...saying it was ...ABSOLUTE.....do you have that statement handy?
    The Apostolic statements are absolute....but no teacher can lay claim to that.

    unless it was this teacher of reformed truth;
    25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

    26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

    27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
     
  11. Iconoclast

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    We have this;
    1 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

    12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

    13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

    14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

    15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

    16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

    17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
     
  12. Iconoclast

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    from psalm 119

    18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

    33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.

    34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.

    36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
     
  13. JonC

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    Icon,

    As far as I know you never said that these teachings were absolute. If I remember correctly you said that they were objective. There was a thread (there were, if I recall, actually 2 threads) where I was challenged for rejecting the interpretation of an eighteenth century pastor. The charge against me was one of questioning the doctrine God gave the church because God had given that pastor to the Church for its teaching. The teaching therefore was God given revelation and absolute truth (it was not subjective, but objective fact). It was this mentality that I was addressing, not your comments. And no, I do not believe it appropriate to quote the statement as that person is not involved in this thread (the thread also did not continue very well). So, unfortunately, I’ll ask you to take my word for the dialogue or if my revealed character does not afford that concession, dismiss it all together (I won’t be offended either way). I'll just take your comment to be that our theologies are not absolute (I take it for the reasons mentioned), but Scripture itself is absolute. And on that I can agree.

    BTW, I think in your passage you mean “revealed” truth and not “reformed.” Jesus was not reforming but revealing and fulfilling (reformed doctrine was an attempt at getting back to what was revealed).
     
  14. JonC

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    I agree that the Holy Spirit guides us, and that God's revelation is unveiled as we continue to study. We now see darkly, but then face to face. I am not taking specifically about understanding what God reveals to us, I am talking about systematic theology and our building of doctrines.

    For example, one may hold one of several eschatological views - but none of these views are absolute truth on par with Scripture itself. One may hold one of several theories of atonement, yet none are absolute truth on par with Scripture itself. If to me Calvinism is the gospel message because that is how I understand the gospel, then that is well and good. But if I believe that it is actually God's revelation of that gospel (that the gospel is actually Calvinism) then I am approaching heresy (or Catholicism....one of those two).
     
  15. Iconoclast

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    8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:

    9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;

    10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
    or reformed;

    These revealed truths were a reformation from the misundertandings of the religious leaders of the day.
    Reformation means...setting things right!
     
  16. Iconoclast

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    I disagree. I think that it is both revealed in scripture and true, and the gospel is explained by it.....not heresy at all, or if what you are suggesting was so...we cannot know anything about anything...
    Do you believe in the trinity...or is it still up in the air? Is it revealed truth and objective fact, or not.
     
  17. JonC

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    Ah….I misunderstood your comment. Hebrews 9:10 clears it up and I agree. You mean in terms of rectification; of reformation in the sense of reconstruction – a reshaping of Israel’s religion (the New Covenant). I took your comment out of context (sorry).
     
  18. Iconoclast

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    I believe the divinely revealed reformation, which was foretold is fixed and certain. the closer we are to it, the purer our local assembly will be.

    I understand the point you were seeking to make...men are fallible , so we mess things up. That is not the fault of revelation. I believe to some extent even the confusion is designed by God;
    18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

    19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
     
  19. JonC

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    I disagree. It is not that we cannot know anything about anything but that we cannot know everything about everything. Calvinism simply incorporates things that are not absolutely revealed in the Bible. Theology does this, and as Spurgeon eloquently noted, there is a "needsbe" for this. We have finite cognitive abilities. You understand the gospel in terms of Calvinism (I also did at one time). But there is also a reason that we are commanded not to lean on our own understanding.

    God's Word is without error, it is objective and absolute. How we develop doctrines and apply God's Word, however, is not so clean cut. The Bible was never written so that you could teach the mind of God, His thought process in election, the logical order of His decree to save, etc.

    What I am saying is that our understanding is necessary for us to deal with God's revelation. But we can't lean on our understanding. Calvinism may be my understanding of the gospel (it is to me the gospel itself), but for me to think that the gospel is Calvinism is wrong. There is so much in Calvinism (and any theology) that is extra-biblical. There is no special revelation, for example, given of God's thoughts as He offered His Son, or of the total scope of the Atonement...or of the logical order of God's decree to elect. We may have a theory, and even need a theory, but that is so that we can understand and deal with what is actually revealed in and of God's Word.

    We have the doctrine of the Trinity. It is systematic theology. And there are gaps and potential error in our understanding of the relationship of individual members of the Godhead. There are differences. I have stated that I reject a separation between Father and Son on the Cross, based in part from passages forming our understanding of the Trinity.
     
  20. TCassidy

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    You must think Charles Spurgeon is either an arch-heretic or a closet Catholic. :D :D

    "Calvinism IS the Gospel, and nothing else."

    (C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. I: The Early Years)

    "The longer I live, the clearer does it appear that John Calvin's system is the nearest to perfection."

    (The Forgotten Spurgeon, by Iain Murray)

    "Among all those who have been born of women, there has not risen a greater than John Calvin."

    (C. H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. II: The Full Harvest)
     
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