Friday, January 4, 2008
"What is Basic Christian Theology?"
The Knowledge of God
2 Pet 1:2-3 (Jer) May you have more and more grace and peace as you come to know our Lord more and more. By divine power, he has given us all the things that we need for life and true devotion, bringing us to know God himself, who has called us by his own glory and goodness.
C.S. Lewis On Theology
"In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk... an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, 'I've no use for all that stuff. But mind you, I'm a religious man too, I know there's a God, I've felt Him: out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery. And that's just why I don't believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who's met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!'
"Now in a sense I quite agree with that man. I think he probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will also be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper.
"But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would only be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
"Now, Theology is like that map. Merely learning and thinking about Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God--experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused.
"And secondly, if you want to get any further, you have to use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion--all about feeling God in nature, and so on--is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map."
Jer 4:22 (NIV) My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled at doing evil; they know not how to do good.
C.S. Lewis: "Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones--bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England [or America] is retrogression--like believing that the earth is flat."
1 Tim 6:20-21 (NIV) Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.
Eph 3:17b-19 (Phi) And I pray that you, rooted and founded in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ--and to know for yourselves that love so far above our understanding. So will you be filled through all your being with God himself!
C.S. Lewis: "The only really adequate instrument for learning about God, is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together. Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science, the laboratory outfit. That is why all these people who turn up every few years with some patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian tradition are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old pair of field glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. He may be a clever chap, he may be cleverer than some of the real astronomers, but he is not giving himself a chance. And two years later everyone has forgotten all about him, but the real science is still going on."
2 Cor 10:3-5a (Phi) The truth is that, although we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level. The very weapons we use are not human but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds. Our battle is to break down every deceptive argument and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God.
Holding The Knowledge Of God In Contempt
Christians believe in revelation theology: We know God because he has revealed himself to us. The knowledge of God is a great gift. Were it not for this, it would be impossible for us to "figure him out". But the revelation God has given may not fit our notions of how we think he ought to be. So many have rejected the knowledge of God and follow their own ideas, detached from the Scriptures and the Body of Christ. For these sects, "Theology Bashing" has become popular.
Rom 1:22,25a,28 (NIV) Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.... They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.... Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not be done.
A.W. Tozer: "We can hold a correct view of the truth only by daring to believe everything that God has said about Himself... Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist on trying to modify Him and to bring him nearer to our own image."
Ignorant Of God?
1 Sam 2:12 (NAS) Now the son's of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord.
1 Cor 15:34b (NIV) For there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame.
1 Cor 15:34 (TEB) Come back to your senses and stop your sinful ways. I say this to your shame, some of you do not know God.
Titus 1:16a (NIV) They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.
Rom 10:2 (TEB) I can be a witness for them that they are deeply devoted to God. But their devotion is not based on true knowledge.
Mat 22:29 (NIV) Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God."
2 Thes 1:8 (NIV) He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Gal 4:8-9 (Jer) Once you were ignorant of God, and enslaved to "gods" who are not really gods at all; but now that you have come to a knowledge of God--or rather, now that God has acknowledged you--how can you go back to elemental things like these, that can do nothing and give you nothing, and be their slaves?
Advice To Those Who Lack The Knowledge Of God
John 8:31-32 (NEB) Jesus said, "If you dwell within the revelation I have brought, you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Prov 2:1-5 (NIV) My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Col 2:8 (NIV) See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Prov 1:7 (NIV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
It's Not What You Know, It's Who You Know
Jer 9:23-24 (NIV) This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, or the strong man boast in his strength, or the rich man boast in his riches; but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.
Eph 1:17 (NIV) I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
1 Jn 5:20 (NIV) We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true.
John 17:3 (NIV) "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
A Love Letter From God
John 8:31 (Jer) "If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth, and the truth shall set you free."
1 Tim 4:13,15-16 (NIV) Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, and to teaching.... Be diligent in these matters; give yourselves wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The Scent Of True Theology
Col 1:9,10 (Jer) ... What we ask God is that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of his will. So you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to him in all its aspects; showing the results in all the good actions you do and increasing your knowledge of God.
Eph 4:13 (NIV) Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
2 Cor 2:14-16 (Phi) Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on Christ's triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume! We Christians have the unmistakable 'scent' of Christ, discernible alike to those who are being saved and to those who are heading to death. To the latter it seems like the deathly smell of doom, to the former it has the refreshing fragrance of life itself.
1 Jn 2:3-4 (Jer) We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, "I know him" and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth.
Bogus Theology: Skit 1 - Love Without Knowledge
(The interviewer's voice is indented like this.)
Let me tell you about this wonderful man that I know and love.
What is his name?
His name is like the flutter of birds wings beating in the twilight. He thrills my soul!
Interesting.... Well then, what is he like?
He is like the lovely smell of jasmine in the cool evening breeze. He enraptures my spirit!
Hmmm... Where does he live?
He lives in the glow of the evening sunset. My senses reel!
Right.... What is important to him?
(This effusiveness and evasion continue to a point of frustration, ad-lib. You get the idea.)
Can you tell me anything about him besides your "reactions"?
I don't want to "put him in a box"! He is much too vast, much too vague, to be captured with the crudity of mere words!
That is all fine, but can you tell me anything definite about him?
Well, I wouldn't want to reduce him to a mere description.
How can you say that you love this man, when you don't know the first thing about him? What does he say about himself?
Well I'm not sure, but I know that he is everywhere, and he is everything I desire. I know him with my heart!
Look, if you don't know his name, what he looks like, what is important to him, how do you know it is "him"?
Hmmm... I see where you are headed with these questions, and I want to say that I would never try to pigeonhole him with mere "head-knowledge". You see, it is all in my heart. He is wherever, whomever, whenever I need him. Sometimes he is blond, sometimes brunette. Sometimes tall, sometimes short. In fact, I'm beginning to think that you may be him! (The Interviewer is a woman!)
You don't seem very careful in making sure your not with the wrong "him"! If he was a real man, I suspect this would make him rather angry. Is this a fantasy man of your own making, or is he real?
How could that matter, when I know him and love him so!
Bogus Theology: Skit 2 - Knowledge Without Love
Let me tell you about this wonderful man that I know and love.
How do you know that you love him?
I know his telephone number!
That's fine, but how do you feel!
I know his address.
So you're in love with this man, for real?
Hey, I know his social security number!
Tell me how your emotions respond to him.
(This fun-fact routine of evasion continues to the point of humor, ad-lib. Again, you get the idea.)
Now wait a minute! Don't you think it odd that you "know" this man so well, but don't feel anything?
I know his license plate number.
What kind of love is it that never feels?
Well, in ancient Greek, love meant to "collect like sea shells", or something like that. So I "love" by collecting trivia about him.
I have heard that he has said that more than anything he desires to be loved from the heart. did you not "know" this?
The best experts have lately pointed out that he said that a long time ago, when he was much younger and less sophisticated. I have a book, in fact, on just this debate...
You seem to know a lot of facts about him, but do you really know him?
Sure I do. It's all in my head. I can correctly answer any question! Try me!
Does he know you?
Well... I'm not sure... But I know a lot about him, doesn't that count for something?