A week late (to say nothing of A Day Late,) and I am back here again with a completed review. This chapter is titles “The Word of God” and deals with defining a key term that will likely be used frequently in the rest of the book. Ironically, as I missed my review from last week, the chapter is a rather spartan six pages long, something I was rather surprised to see and which brought a bit of chagrin to my face. Reading through took me only a quarter hour or so as there are no over complicated ideas or terms to grapple with, which brings me to the first of several definitions of the “Word of God” brought up in the chapter.
The first example used for the Word of God is as a person, Person rather. As an aside, whenever I write, I will differentiate my use of god(s) and God, including the other forms and pronouns used to describe the Judeo-Christian God of whom I hold a belief in as a personal savior, with capitalism. In this instance, Word of God is used a few times in the NT (New Testament) as a name or title for Jesus Christ, see John 1:1 and Revelation 19 to piece together that pairing (as well as citing that Christ was indeed there from the beginning, and not a later manifestation/inception of God.) In this usage, Christ is a communicator, since words are typically used to communicate and rarely of use otherwise.
Another meaning is of the literal words of God, ie. He spoke to Moses from the burning bush, a familiar story to many. There are several times in the Bible where God speaks to man and the words are recorded, either directly, or in summary. Genesis shows God walking in the Garden of Eden with Adan and Eve, literally talking with them daily. Later, Moses talks with God, and is occasionally so affected even physically by the event that the rest of the Israelites can hardly see around him for a time afterwards. One powerful example of God speaking to Moses is when God tells Moses “I Am that I Am” and goes on to tell the Israelites that “I Am” sent him. This is a claim to be self-existing, not having a beginning nor an end, as Nietzsche has said. During Christ’s incarnation (a period when He was fully God and man, a deep paradox in and of itself) He spoke to many, and those words are called out in many Bibles with red letters, giving rise to the term “Red Letter Day” for a time of unusual import. These “red letters” of the Gosples are also the words of God.
As above I mostly touched on the literal speaking of God; the red letters and “I Am” statements where the actual words have been recorded and are able to go through. Closely tied into this are those words that God and Jesus (separated here for ease of mentally picturing, though they are both “God”) spoke, but where the idea was of the message is all we have, not always the direct words. This is viewable in many of the prophets, where occasionally you get the whole dialogue (Jonah and Job, some may recall, actually had verbal slugfests and questionings with God.)
The next facet is a kind of Will of God, visible in the beginning parts of Genesis as well as in other parts of the Bible. Gen 1:3 (NIV) states,
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
His word, in this case, was a sort of extension of His will. Word -> Action. The Psalms are full of times detailing when God’s word acts in this manner.
The form of God’s Word pertaining to the main focus of Sys Theo is the Bible, the conglomerate of all of the other forms. As the primary remaining means of revelation to man by God, this study is appropriate. The Bible itself is a remarkable book, having been written across millennia (roughly 1500 years,) in three major languages, and by a number of human authors. Containing history, poetry, teaching and prophesy of future times, the Bible has a wide range of content from a purely human perspective.
From the assumption that the Bible is sole source of Truth, the Bible gains a second, more important, purpose than a mundane book. Because we hold to the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, meaning here the divinely inspired words written through a human medium, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16) In what could almost be the thesis statement of the Bible, though it comes near the end, Paul, who is speaking to a younger believer in a role of leadership, relays the truth that being Inspired, the Bible is useful for a great many things. As Systematic Theology is the study of what the Bible tells us on any given topic, this passage dovetails neatly with a study of systematic theology and reminds what purpose the Bible holds; that of teaching and correcting.
A question of what is the Bible, meaning why is the Bible 66 books, and why those particular 66 books, is natural at this point, to both the studies believer and also to everyone else. Many other books, or sections have been put forth through history as Canon or on the same level as the Bible, and some believe that parts of the Bible out to be omitted for various reasons. Wisely, the very next chapter deals with this issue, and if it does not do so to the extent I would like it to, I’ll take a break and write up my own separate section for this issue.
Recently, and by recently I mean a good two months or more ago, I purchased a copy of Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine” and more recently (about a week ago,) I decided I should get around to reading it. Now, this book has long been a familiar sight in my father’s study (remember, he is a pastor) and while it may not be his favorite consolidated systematic theology, it is the one I am most familiar with, having seen many copies at Master’s. I finished about 3pm Sunday afternoon, after sporadic reading through the week, and as I’d decided upon my start, I am writing a review on the chapter.
But first, an introduction to this great tome of a book. Weighing in at several pounds, almost 1,300 pages, and approximately 0.2 font size, I knew from the get go that this book would quite possibly the most ambitious undertaking I’ve had in a long time. Further, this is a systematic theology, which is ” any study that answers the question, ‘What does the Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.” The reason this book is so large and dense (trust me here; I can read Shakespeare without too much difficulty, I have a feeling I’ll be working this book like a tough bit of steak) is because of that definition, given in this first chapter. A book such as this is a sort of Christian Wikipedia; information on a great many topics, occasionally flawed and therefore most worth studying with a careful, “Borean” eye and through the lens of the Bible itself.
It would seem appropriate that the first chapter of Sys Theo (which I shall frequently abbreviate for ease of typing) is an introduction of this topic of “systematic theology.” Grudem begins the first paragraph of the official chapter with the above definition of what a systematic theology is, quoted from his mentor John Frame. Shortly thereafter he continues with a definition of “doctrine” which is “what the thole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic.” In non-Biblical terms, roughly speaking, doctrine is to systematic theology what physics is to science as a whole; a more focused part of a whole.
Wayne moves on to a short outline of the major doctrines and outline of his book; the doctrines of the Word of God, of God, of Man, of Christ and the Holy Spirit, of the Application of Redemption, of the Church, and finally, of the Future, for a total of seven major parts. The entire book is fifty seven chapters long, so at a chapter a week, I should be done about by my birthday next year, when I turn the ripe, venerable age of twenty four. This distinction of seven major doctrines brings up the need to mention the difference between major and minor doctrines, important because there are a great deal of differences in beliefs concerning both in Christianity today, and can frequently become the focus of aggression.
Major doctrine, in my words, are the real meat and potatoes, those points that I would say all true believers would agree on, or that are foundational tenants of Christianity. Among these, but not limited to, are the fallen nature of man, man’s need to be saved from this fallen nature and their inadequacy to do so themselves, and Christ’s sacrifice enabling the salvation (saving) of man. There is much more, and all of which merit much more expanding, but the general idea is presented, and all of which I will either cover in review, or expand upon myself at some point.
Minor doctrine, therefor, are the things that are less structural in a saving faith sort of way. Not quite foundational, but important in the way that they give a fuller, more perfect understanding in what the Bible teaches on said topic. Christians frequently disagree on these points, have for millennia, and likely will until the world ends. Spiritual gifts, the Millennial Kingdom, and TULIP (actually an inter-connected group of five doctrinal issues) are a few of these. Saving grace isn’t affected by these for the most part, but they do affect daily living. Minor doctrine is to major doctrine as Chemistry is to Physics in the above analogy; more specific and involved.
Back to the actual book, Grudem moves on to explain what his focus of Sys Theo is not; namely a Biblical Theology, Christian Apologia, Historical Theology, or even a study on Christian Ethics. While all of those have a finger in the pie of systematic theology, which in turn has a finger in each of theirs. I’ll cover each a bit more in depth sometime in the future, as each deserve much more than I could dedicate in this post. Systematic theology, further boiled down is what God wants us to believe and know, and a stumbling point becomes when the “total weight of the teaching of the scriptures” is applied, rather than cherry picking certain passages to fit your view of things.
Integral to any study of the Bible from a truly Christian point of view are two initial assumptions, and I’ve quoted the stated versions of them here.
- “That the Bible is true and that it is, in fact, our only absolute source for truth”
- “That the God who is spoken of in the Bible exists, and that He is who the Bible says He is: the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all things in them.”
Those are powerful statements, and the entire Christian faith hangs on them, the apostle Paul himself said,
“12Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15 : 12-19
As the purpose of these reviews is to study a systematic theology, and I personally believe in those assumptions, this blog will continue on holding to both of them, unashamedly.
The chapter ends with a subsection titled “How Should Christians Study Systematic Theology?” which I will outline. We, that is Christians studying sys theo, should study with Prayer, that meditation and communion with God that has been given to all Christians. Which honestly looks rather silly just reading it plain, but as the wisdom of Christ is foolishness to the world, we get to run with it, after all, basket ball players and baseball pitchers get those silly arm warmers, and we’ve been praying for over two thousand years. With Humility, there are issues here that have been under discussion, both gentle and violent, for hundreds of years, and are not likely to be “solved” pre-kingdom come. Inevitably everyone has some “baggage” (to steal a picture from my dad) that is simply wrong, and a careful, honest study of scripture will eventually point us in the correct direction if we are willing to admit we might be wrong when presented with the entirety of the facts. I struggle here personally as an extremely opinionated person; being wrong is loosing, and I hate loosing.
Reason is another part of how to study. Much of the New Testament was written in Greek-influenced areas of the world in a time when logic was the ultimate virtue, and Paul especially was a logical reasoner. Feelings are frequently a tainter of thought and can get in the way of our foundational assumptions here. If we accept those assumptions, then there will be truth only in the Bible, and while we may encounter seeming paradoxes (the Trinity being one) we must do our best to understand them and accept that there are some things that human thought simply cannot comprehend.
Aiding the reasoning process is Help from others. I have personally been blessed with an abundance of wise and godly men in my life, my father and grandfather among them, and both of whom I do not hesitate to call upon when I need the help. Along with Help is looking at All the evidence available. Properly understanding the entire context of passage, as well as all passages on any given topic is necessary to come to the most perfect conclusion possible.
Finally, Wayne Grudem gives up a final way to study; that with Rejoicing and Praising. This is only logical, anyone making a positive discovery will cheer, shout happily, fist pump, break out the champagne, or some combination thereof. While our discovery will not be anything truly previously unknown to humanity, it is rather a progression along on that journey to become closer to Christ, as we are commanded.
The chapter ends with a small slew of extra goodies, as all chapters in the book do. Questions for personal application, always beneficial to help one “dig deeper” on their own, a list of special terms to search back for, and a bibliography for further reading are the first few. A Scripture memory passage relating to the content of the previous chapter, (here Matt 28 : 18-20) and a closing Hymn, usually relating to the chapter as well, though a general hymn of praise here “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” close out the book.
As I said earlier, a chapter a week (which is doable for me) will take me just over a year and I will truly do my best to not only stick to that reading, but also to this weekly review. There may be times I flat out disagree and am totally wrong, there may be times I agree and am totally wrong, and I know there will be times I agree and am right, and times I disagree and will be right. It is my hope that going through this study I become better able to present a logical and correct systematic theology in the future and grow from this study. My hope would also be that whoever reads this blog is edified as well, and point out where I might be wrong myself in my conclusions or stated beliefs.
In closing, I do plan on having a few posts each week, and this series only one those. Even if you totally don’t care about systematic theology, either because you find it a waste of time, or just don’t believe as me, I would urge you to read along with me, and ask me some questions when you have them. I bet it won’t hurt, and you might learn a thing or two. Until next time, Adieu!
A curious thing happened last night at the dinner table. My grandparents and Anna were talking and somehow the conversation got turned to Wonder Woman and I mentioned how they’re changing her costume (along with practically every other Superhero/villain in either major multiverse) to something other than patriotic diapers. Now, this Superheroin is one of the few my grandparents are actually familiar with. Somehow, having raised two boys through the Bronze age of comic books, they managed to fumble their Knowledge: Comics rolls almost every time, so this familiarity is something to be amazed at. For the record, here is the Classic Wonder Woman, and the reboot version.
The curious thing, however, is not that my grandparents recognized who is probably the most iconic comic female superhero of all time, but rather that they prefer the old costume to the new one. And by the way, that older version I picked was a bit more modest than most; the corset usually shows a bit more cleavage, though this one is less diaper than modern swimsuit bottom. Here’s the Lynda Carter TV series rendition, featuring that horrid bottom.
See what I mean? So compared to the corset of truth, and diapers of patriotism, this new, far more mosdestly (and dare I say comfortably?) dressed Wonder Woman is “tacky.” For those of you at home, Tacky is “showing poor taste and quality.” I won’t comment on the quality, though I’m definitely not a fan of most people running around in spandex, but the taste bit was rather ironic to me. Yes, I will admit she now looks a bit more grungy, though maybe I’m biased in actually liking that look a wee tad. But at the very least, she’s much more covered up than before.
I know the comic world is going through a huge group of changes right now, with more reboots occurring than in recent memory. The X-Men series of films have hit their fifth movie in the last few weeks, Green Lantern is out, and the Avengers movie should be out next year. The world’s first black Batman has been released, Barbara Gordon, the Batgirl turned wheelchair-ridden Oracle, is now able to walk again after 23 odd years. Even Star Trek is getting some new love. So big changes happening all the time. I’m a big webcomic guy, and one of these day’s I’ll do a review of the ones I read and why, but particularly germane to today’s post is The Gutters a webcomic making fun of the comic industry at large, drawn by a multitude of artists from other webcomics and written by a Red Bull addict of great talent.
All that to say is maybe I’m a little crazy (which I am, no doubt, either you know this or you don’t know me yet.) I may be the only person I know who likes the change, but I admit I do like it. Remember folks, unless you’re older than 55 or younger than 3, just say no to diapers.
By now, whoever might be reading this blog should have a decent idea that I like music. I like it so much in fact, that I frequently end up titling my posts either song names or something derived from a song title. Today is no different. Since I already managed to beat out two posts this week (two in about 12 hours in fact,) I figured that this topic is something not only warranted, but also beneficial. Read the rest of this entry »
We now bring you back to your regularly scheduled programing. A friend has commented some concern as to the direction this blog has been taking recently, and as Fashion and Love have been my past two topics of monologue, I am inclined to agree that a dosage of testosterone is in order. With that having been said we move on to a field that until recently I had cared about less than your average guy; Cars.
What is Love?
I’ve had the itch to write again, which means I come once again to my blog here. Summer is dawning upon us, school is ending and the yearly glut of weddings has arrived. Normally this means little to me, but this year it seems every second or third friend of mine is attending a wedding, either as a part of the “party” (which unless you’re the guy in charge of the bachelor party it really isn’t,) or as one of the two focal points. This all culminates with a few other factors to lead me to thinking about what “Love” really is. Read the rest of this entry »
As will surprise many of you, and possibly cause a few to question certain aspects of myself, I am currently enrolled in a fashion class. Historic Fashion Costuming to be precise, and am one of three guys in the class, I’ll leave you to question the… preferences of the other two, good luck. But in this class we recently had a discussion, and our final and only essay dedicated to the question of the shock power of fashion. Particularly of the power “fashion” has remaining to shock us. By way of example I present exhibit A Read the rest of this entry »