- Slides: 16
Systematic Theology Lecture 1 – Introduction, Word of God, Canon of Scripture
What Is Systematic Theology? (Pages 21 -43) Theology is the “study of God”. Systematic theology is putting our study of God into a non-contradictory and logical system that “checks and balances itself”. For the purpose of this course is any study that answers the question “What does the whole Bible teach us today? ” – about any given topic. Its is NOT putting God inside a human system of thought – no one can do that! God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts! (Isaiah 55: 8, 9) Systematic theology helps us to think rightly about God in a comprehensive, detailed and organized way that addresses all the relevant bible verses on a particular topic. Systematic theology is the opposite of disorganized and unbiblical theology. It not organizing God, rather it is organizing our thinking about God so that it makes sense, and is not contradictory, idiosyncratic, confused, chaotic or downright muddled. The “system’ keeps us from going off the rails, it does not contain God or contain all knowledge about God which will be incomplete until we see Christ face to face (1 Corinthians 13: 9 -12). We need to be prepared to be challenged and give up preconceived ideas if it is clear FROM SCRIPTURE that they need to be corrected.
Why Bother With Theology? Everything we say, think and do has a theological component e. g. “The whole world stinks” is a (wrong) theological statement. Your attitude to other people has theological implications (are they made in the image of God? ) and even how you spend your money has theological implications. If your theology is wrong, inadequate or poorly understood your whole life can suffer e. g. people who try to work their way into Heaven. Everyone, even an atheist, has a theology - but most don’t have any idea what their theology is! It is better to have an accurate and well-worked out theology than a confused, inaccurate and misleading theology. Wrong teaching is warned against in every book of the NT except the brief letter to Philemon. Those in any kind of ministry need to know that what they are saying about God, Jesus and the Church is true.
Dogma vs. Theology In evangelical Christian theology we balance two statements : A) The Holy Spirit is our teacher and reveals God to all who seek Him on an individual basis without needing any body of traditional human dogma (Scribes, Pharisees) or a human priestly mediator. (1 John 2: 20, 27). B) No prophecy arose out of private interpretation (2 Peter 1: 20, 21) We cannot just make things up, our revelations have to be brought to the body of Christ for discernment. We approach the Scriptures as a loving, prayerful community of grace working out what God is saying to us together. Therefore one hand we are not trying to “have the final infallible word for all time” nor are we trying to invent our own “new” and idiosyncratic path, rather we are trying to discover the truth of the Scriptures together and apply it to our lives and to our ministry today.
Types of Theology Philosophical Theology – speculative human reason Historical Theology – how doctrines developed over time (closely related to Church History) Apologetics – defending the faith from attack / heresy Biblical Theology – what a particular bible book says about a particular topic e. g “what Luke says about prayer” or what the OT says, or the NT says or how a doctrine develops over time within the bible itself. Systematic Theology – what the whole Bible says about a particular topic, it often overlaps with biblical
Some Major Theological Positions Liberal: A theology that sees reason as more important than Scripture and is highly critical of the Bible, miracles, Creation, the deity of Christ and so on. It is often found in mainline churches such as the United Methodist Church. Its modern version is the “Emerging Church” movement. Evangelical: Believe in the need to be born again as a distinct personal act of faith in Jesus Christ involving repentance from sin. The opposite is sacramentalism (salvation by ceremony / church membership) or salvation by works. (CC position) Charismatic: Believes in the gifts and baptism of the Holy Spirit, that they have not ceased and are for today but has a wide range of different opinions about how they should be used. (CC position) Pentecostal: Speaking in tongues is the sign of the baptism in the Holy Spirit but is not necessary for salvation. Experience is very important. Conservative: Holds to the authority and the inerrancy of Scripture as the sole rue for the faith and practice of the Christian life (CC position). Fundamentalist: Started as opposition to the liberals and stated belief in five “fundamental” truths. Now tends to be “reactive” – that is more “against” things than “for” things.
Our Starting Point For This Course (p 26) We start with faith in God as revealed in the Scriptures and believe that: a) There is one Creator God who created the heavens, the earth and everything in them and that this one God exists in three persons Father, Son & Holy Spirit b) That God the Father spoke to His prophets and apostles through the Holy Spirit to write the Scriptures for the glory of His Son and the edification of His Bride the Church and that these Scriptures are fully inspired, authoritative, inerrant and infallible and are to be the guide for the life and practice of every Christian and that we are to seek Christ in and through these Scriptures.
What Is A Doctrine? (p. 25) A doctrine is what the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic. Some are major doctrines (e. g. the Doctrine of the Word of God) and some are minor doctrines (the doctrine of the proper mode of baptism) these minor doctrines live as sub-topics of major doctrines. For instance the seven major doctrinal areas that we find listed in Grudem are the doctrines of: The Word of God, Man, Christ & the Holy Spirit, The Application of Redemption, The Church, The Future We will then try to put these major doctrines into some sort of order because they overlap and interact and do so in powerful and insightful ways. We should “major on the majors and minor on the minors”.
The Doctrine Of The Word of God (p. 47 -51) The Word of God As A Person: Jesus Christ The Word of God As Speech by God: God Decrees (to angels, creation) God’s Words of Personal Address (to people, nations etc) God’s Word As Speech Through Human Lips (prophets) God’s Word Through Written Form: The Bible Our focus will be on God’s Word through written form – the Bible
The Canon of Scripture (p. 54 -72) The canon of Scripture is the list of all the books that belong in the Bible Canon = standard or rule It is very important because we need to know which “words” are the words from God. Marcion – reduced the canon to Luke’s gospel plus the works of Paul Council of Trent (Catholic) tried to add the Apocrypha Modern liberal theologians try to add in the Gnostic gospels such as the Gospel of Thomas F. F. Bruce The Canon of Scripture Josh Mc. Dowell Evidence That Demands a Verdict Vol. 2
Old Testament Books Started with the Ten Commandments ‘written by the finger of God’ Moses then writes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy recording God’s words and deeds. Over time Scriptures added to by Joshua, Samuel, the prophets, Ezra the scribe etc. By the time of Jesus it was agreed that the last inspired writings ended with Malachi in 435 BC last books were Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi Jews agreed on this current list by Jesus day (Josephus) and certainly by 100 AD Copied exceedinly carefully by the Masoretic scribes
New Testament Books Authored by the apostles or by those close to the apostles (e. g. Hebrews) Widely used by the Church in both East and West Profitable for life and doctrine: good outcomes Consistent with the life and teachings of Christ is the final statement (Hebrews 1: 1 -3) Smaller books controversial: 2 john, 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude Revelation also controversial Current list agreed on substantially by 150 AD and agreed fully by 367 AD Over 10, 000 NT manuscripts exist enabling crosschecking, and there is a very high degree of consistency <1% of the NT is in dispute even to the slightest degree and no major doctrine is affected by such a dispute over the etxt.
The Apocrypha etc. There are many books that were not included in the OT or NT canon the major ones were: 1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the rest of Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (not the same as Ecclesiastes), Baruch (including the epsitle of Jeremiah), the song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh and 1 & 2 Maccabees. Mostly written between 400 BC to 100 BC Interesting historically and of some value but definitely NOT Scripture Not included in any of the Jewish or early Christian lists of inspired books
Why The Apocrypha Were Not Accepted (p. 59) They do not claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the OT writings They were not regarded as God’s words by the Jewish people from whom they originated They were not considered as Scripture by Jesus or any of the authors of the NT They contain teachings inconsistent with the rest of the NT
Pseudepigrapha Pseudepigrapha – “false writings” those who claim authors with bible names but are written by someone else Enoch, Psalms of Solomon, Book of Jubilees, Acts of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Life of Adam and Eve, Testament of Job etc. They are numerous in number and of very low quality. The Gospel of Thomas ends with a statement that women must become men in order to be saved! Some (such as Enoch and the Shepherd of Hermas) gained a little credibility but later were not accepted. Major doctrinal problems w. Shepherd (very legalistic) Mainly written between 200 BC to 200 AD Pseudepigrapha heavily influenced by astrology, dreams, visions, Gnosticism and old Jewish fables, mainly in vogue today with pagans, witches and Gnostics. Colossians 2 warns us aginst such things as does 1 & 2 Timothy.
How Do We Know We Have The Right Books? The faithfulness of God in authoring, preserving His Scriptures and in guiding His Church to select correctly. The experience of the Church over time There are no strong candidates for inclusion There are no strong candidates for exclusion The most controversial books: Esther, Song of Solomon, 2 & 3 John, 2 Peter, James, Jude, Revelation and Hebrews do not contain any false doctrine harmful to the Church and no major evangelical theologian wishes to exclude any of them Doubts: no direct mention of God (Esther) mystical nature (Songs, Revelation), possible non-apostolic authorship (2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, James, Jude, Hebrews), difficult doctrines (James). These have been discussed extensively and resolved over time. Apparent contradictions are resolved by studying the culture, use of language, symbolism, metaphor etc.