Monday, March 29, 2010

Some gleanings on Systematic Theology

Too often we get focused on specific biblical issues without seeing what else is out there. That is, I know of people who seem to study nothing else other than the Biblical texts which relate to the Calvinism/Arminian debate. And there are others who seem to study and discuss nothing other than Trinitarianism; whether they are for it or against it. But one thing that people lack, including myself, is a cohesive and comprehensive understanding of Scripture as a whole. That is, if the Bible is God's Word, then we should not view it as sets of verses or different books piled together. Instead, we should view it as one book. But to do this, we need to be able to take a step back and be able to see how the Bibles eschatology, ecclesiology, soteriology, Christology all work out together. For instance, if you have never taken the time to study eschatology or baptism, how do you know the manner in which this might impact your view on the nature of God? Could your understanding on these subjects impact how you understand, let's say, the identity of Christ? The simple answer is, you don't know.

This is why i'm taking the time to study SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY a little bit each day. Why? Because it forces you to systematize your individual beliefs into one cohesive unit. That is, it sharpens the consistency of your beliefs. If your Christology puts you at odds with your eschatology, then one of them needs to be corrected.

Right now i'm reading through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I'm sure a lot of people have a bad taste in their mouth when they hear Calvin's name. But there is no denying the fact that his "systematic theology" is nothing short of brilliant in offering a cohesive and comprehensive look at the Bible as a whole. Now, I certainly do not agree with everything Calvin says. But that is not the point of reading a systematic theology. As you read, you critique the views offered and formulate your own. This way, you not only research topics you never thought about before, but you sharpen and refine views you might already hold strongly to.

If you are a student of theology, pick up a systematic theology today and read it alongside your daily Bible readings. And i'm not saying this in a "Bible study aid" sort of way. In fact, forget the actual views that your particular systematic theology espouses. Look at the subject itself and ask yourself, "I see how Calvin (or whoever else) is forming his view on this, but how would I form mine? As I read through today's biblical texts, do my understandings of, let's say, ecclesiology jive with what Romans 4 teaches about salvation?"

With that said, i'd like to share what I read in Calvin's Institutes (who knows how often i'll do this) to see what anyone else thinks, whether they agree or disagree.

Book One, Chapter 13: section 20

Then, that the name Jehovah, taken indefinitely, may be applied to Christ, is clear from the words of Paul, “For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.” After giving the answer, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” he subjoins, “that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:8 , 9 ). For it is certain that the name of Lord ( Kuriou ) is there put for Jehovah, and, therefore, to restrict it to the person of the Mediator were puerile and frivolous, the words being used absolutely, and not with the view of comparing the Father and the Son. And we know that, in accordance with the received usage of the Greeks, the apostles uniformly substitute the word Kurios for Jehovah. Not to go far for an example, Paul besought the Lord in the same sense in which Peter quotes the passage of Joel, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 ; Joel 2:28 ). Where this name is specially applied to the Son, there is a different ground for it, as will be seen in its own place; at present it is sufficient to remember, that Paul, after praying to God absolutely, immediately subjoins the name of Christ.

(By the way, I much prefer McNeill's translation of Calvin better than this one. But this came from my Bible software and was easier to copy and paste)


Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm curious, why so much focus on christianity? Not trying to be disrespectful, only curious- why not some other religion, since there are so many out there? Just trying to understand the appeal of it. I havent read much of your blog so maybe this is something you already answered- in that case would you link me to the right page./TT

Mike Felker said...

Hey TT, that's a great question. I usually don't focus on something until I "run into it." For instance, I thought very little of Jehovah's Witnesses before 4 years ago, but after having so many interactions with them it has led me to focus a lot of my writing on them. So it really just depends on my situation. The truth is, you can't be an expert at everything. I try to be as well-rounded as I can, but I will never know as much about all the world religions as I do the JW's.

But I do try to focus on other groups in my studies. For instance, if I ran into a Muslim (which i've never had the opportunity to do yet in my life) I would feel adequately equipped to defend my faith against what he believes.

And another thing, a lot of the world religions simply don't interest me that much. For instance, Shintoism all that interesting to me. So I would like to focus on things that interest me when it comes to what I choose to write about.

Hope that answers your question.