Thursday, July 15, 2010

Systematic Theology again

Being a country boy, every once in awhile I like to run a stick up in a hole and see what comes crawling out. So with Systematic Theology. I usually can poke some of you out with this one, and y'all ain't been very active for awhile. So here goes.

It is clear to me that God wrote the Bible and that men write systematic theologies. The Bible is a harmonious whole provided to man by God. It is often not the harmonious whole in the preconceived way we think it is. Too many times we study half of what the Bible says about something, form our opinions, and then toss out the other half of what the Bible says about that subject. In effect, we form a systematic grid that we place over the word of God and dispose of whatever doesn't fit that grid. It is too often that we don't realize that it is the word of God that needs to be placed over the grid. If the grid isn't fitting the Word, toss IT.

"We must recognize that God and the Scriptures rule over our theology and not the other way around." -- John Stevenson

Those of you who know me know that I am quite the biblical literalist. When James says the elders were to anoint with oil, I believe the elders were literally anointing with literal oil. When Paul discusses a head covering in I Corithians 11, I believe he really meant what he said.

But it is a problem that we often misinterpret the Bible because we do not recognize that it uses figures of speech. When we try to literalize what is not literal, we run into nonsense.

From this post, I want to launch over the next few days a highlighting of the most common figures of speech in the English language and look at how or whether these are used in our Bible. Come back tomorrow. Similar time, same place.


Anonymous said...

I certainly agree with you Robert. Some things in the Scriptures have been misapplied so many times. Some are literal, and other things are must be viewed in a different light, given the context. I believe when the Bible states, "Thou shalt not lie," this is exactly what it means. If someone misleads you, in hopes that you will disappear from them, this is not a "brushoff," but a lie. Evidently, many do not think so.

Like you said, there have been quite a few groups who will only place empahsis ona few Scriptures and build their whole philosophy around those. One that readily comes to mind is the Charismatic/Pentecostal groups who build around just a few Scriptures concerning the gifts of the Spirit. You could argue that their entire way of life is controlled by this. On the other hand, I believe some have been guilty of resting their faith only in John 3:16. Also, I am afraid some will often place too much emphasis on the sovereign grace of God.

Would you not also agree that there some things in the Scripture which God did not intend for man to know. I feel if man knew everything God set forth in the Bible, then that would make him on par with God. In regards to preaching, while i believe it can only be effective when one is led by the Spirit, careful study is still important. There have been too many who take the literal interpretation to " open your mouth and the Lord will fill it."

Of course with the hectic modern lifestyle, it is getting harder and harder for a minister to fully prepare themselves to rightly divide truth from error. The minister of 200 years ago did not have the distractions and nonsense we have in 2010. For that matter, no one did.

jim1927 said...

Theology is the systematic study of God's word, it is not an isolation from the word of God.

There were as many distractions 200 years ago as there are to-day. They simply took on thelselves different aspects of culture.



Anonymous said...

Jim, how can you say there were as many distractions 200 years ago as today?

jim1927 said...

For example: Smoking was not an issue years ago. Almost every writer of theology, the writers we praise to-day, were smokers. They also drank alcohol. We call these distractions to-day, but were common then.

The cultural setting had as many distractions then as now, even in my lifetime. We didn't have the telly and picture shows, but we had live theatre. The common song used for the marriage walk came from an opera featuring a prostitute!



PS. I don't know why my last post repeated. Hope this one doesn't.

Anonymous said...


I guess that's a good thing about forums in that we can carry on a friendly dialogue over topics.

Granted, I agree there been advances, reversals, changes in acceptance through times, etc. But I would have to disagree that the culture of today is the same in relation to a Christian and their walk with God vs 200 years ago. I just do not see how it could compare. Do not get me wrong. There is much benefit we have gotten from the many things i would call "distractions." But when you add up the enormous weight of the changes, or "distractions" we have undergone over the last 100 years, would you not say that a Christian lifestyle looks very out of place now? I do not mean to get too far away from the original topic, so I will try to keep that in focus. The culture of today is getting away from any type of theology it seems, because of the combination of "distractions." Instant gratification would certainly be one. It used to be that more time was taken to delve into Scripture, and rightly divide. Now it seems to be, "When will this sermon end, so I can go to the lake or watch the ballgame.

I believe the most telling point would be this. Take a little survey sometimes if you will. It can be anywhere at all. Look at 10 people at random, say in their 20's or 30's. Then analyze those in their 70's, 80's, and even 90's. Now, which age group seems the most contented, and would be the most dependable? If you had a major emergency come up, which 10 would you want on your side? Of course it would be the older group. Why? Because of the way they were brought up. Even though they are in and around the distractions of today, they were grounded not to let it get the best of them.

One final thing which comes to mind is this. We hear so much about stress and tensions these days. A few years back, some experts did a study on school-age children and stress. We all know the problems that youth face today. Which classification of youth do you think had the lowest amount of stress and tension when the testing was complete? It was the Amish children. It's no wonder at all. The Amish do a fairly decent job of keeping the "distractions" away. God Bless the "distractions" away

Anonymous said...

sorry for the typo at the end

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Anonymous, I agree with what you write for the most part, including that the hectic modern lifestyle provides more distractions than 200 years ago -- even 100 years ago around here. Obviously all regions are not in the same state of progress at the same time. But around here 100 years ago anyone who wanted to could have found plenty of trouble to get into. But they could not have found much of it with the easy access of moderns. I doubt there was anywhere within range a rural teenager could have gotten pornography. Now all he has to do is turn on his computer. Almost all of the recreation would have to have been acceptable to community standards. Then a trip to the county seat was an all day trip, maybe one would even have to stay overnight. Today I can drive to Houston and back in less than a day. So I think I understand what you mean.

I am not sure I can agree that there some things in the Scripture which God did not intend for man to know. To me that is the reason for His giving the Scripture -- a revelation of Himself and His work. I might think that He doesn't intend for every man to know all of the same things. I don't feel if man knew everything God set forth in the Bible that would make him on par with God. There are plenty of things about God, heaven, angels and on and on that are not revealed.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Jim, I agree that theology is the systematic study of God's word. It cannot be isolated from the word of God. But there is much "systematic theology", so-called, that is neither systematic nor theology.

We are all bound to come up with ideas before we have a full understanding of God's Word (and in a sense we never have a full understanding). But it is frustrating to see so many interpreting the Bible by the system they established when they really knew nothing of it.

[I will try to remove the double post.]

RCope said...

Bro. R.L. There was a time when "theology" was considered to be the queen of the sciences. It was a part of the curriculum for many of the early colleges in America.

You are right on target about the theological grids that have been made by man. Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology immediately come to mind when thinking about grids. The problem with these grids is that too often they determine the "theology" rather than the Bible. In other words, the tail wags the dog. The ever-present responsibility of the theologian is to minimize subjectivity. We all come to the Scriptures with certain pre-conceived ideas. With the help of the Holy Spirit, these can surely be over come. Also, a literal, historical and grammatical approach to the Scriptures helps to minimize subjectivity and overcome our pre-conceived ideas.

I too have run a stick up in a hole! I see no reason to look for a figure of speech here. I interpreted your words literally, historically and grammatically. Most of the time, I was delighted with what came out. I really enjoy your thoughts! I will be reading with interest your future articles.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Copeland, your expression of the tail wagging the dog gets exactly to the heart of what I was thinking! Thanks for bringing it up.

Anonymous said...

Robert, I guess I should have more clearly defined what I meant about what God reveals. I was actually referring to the problem of those who try and prove something, which they believe God has revealed in the Scriptures, when in fact, there is no revelation to start with. A prime example would be escheatology. We have so many try to come up with an exact formula for how the world will end, or how Christ will set up a new kingdom. I do not believe any kind of theology could find an answer for this. Would you agree?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Yes, I agree. Certainly we need to learn that the large percentage of "eschatology" is given as warning, instruction, comfort, encouragement and so forth rather than for us to set a time when the Lord is coming (of which no man knoweth the day or the hour).

There are a lot of things that are not revealed in the way our finite minds come to think or hope they are.