It is the glory of God to conceal a matter but it is the glory of kings to find it out. Proverbs 25:2
I know the Truth because I know Jesus (John 14:6).
But of course that is not the same thing as saying I know every particular detail of everything there is to know.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a systematic theology that told you all or at least most of what there is to know about Jesus? Of course there isn’t but that is not the same as saying there is no value in systematic theology.
Now by the phrase “systematic theology” I mean an intellectual construction of arguments and proofs that explain something about the Truth.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is systematic theology. He builds argument upon proof to show the basic doctrines about the Gospel and judgement (chapters 1-4) the flesh and the spirit and the relationship between the two (chapters 6-8) as well as dealing with predestination (chapters 9-11) and other fundamental subjects. These have been of great value to the church over the centuries and show just what a good systematic theology can do. Paul had special revelation and built his theology on that and used the Old Testament to back up much of what he said. Nothing he wrote was independent of his relationship with Jesus, and nothing was a lie about Him or was not found in Him. Christ for Paul was the beginning and the end of all revelation as it ought also to be for all systematic theology.
Being a logical kind of thinker (or at least I think I am, others can judge) I love systematic theology. It is so like the engineering discipline that I use every day. There are fundamental things that are true about creation, maths and machines that have to be obeyed and considered if I am to do my job right. As an example I was drawing a correlation recently between the stress being put on the processor of a computer and the interactions that are occurring between staff and other machines using it. There is a direct cause and effect – the more interactions, the more stress. However it turns out that there is not a linear relationship between the interactions and the processor stress as I initially thought. Once the average daily peak utilisation of the computer processor (the CPU) rises above about 75% things begin to change. If peaks hit 100% the CPU cannot handle the interactions in time and so they begin to back up. A vicious cycle then begins to occur and the computer is in danger of failing to do its job correctly. I’m an IT Capacity Manager, sounds great, but it needed the Chief Architect (not God, a human in this case called Gareth) to get me to look at this relationship between interactions and stress more closely before giving my conclusions. You see I didn’t have all the facts, I had to go looking for more data and analyse it more closely to arrive at the truth.
So you can see, perhaps, why I like systematic theology. If there is any subject that I like to dig deeper into and find out more about it has to be Jesus Christ. And I believe there is a place for deductive reasoning and analysis when doing so. The creation that Jesus Christ is in, through and for, and the ways he wants us to act in it are simple in one way:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.
- Love your neighbour as yourself.
But it can be more complex than a computer system as Paul’s letter to the Romans explores. I want to explore God the way Paul did and I believe there is value and endless depths in doing so.
Having said that, it is essential that we recognise the limits that our intellects have. Firstly, we actually can know nothing that is not revealed to us. As Christians, creation and the Scriptures are our main means of revelation and prayer and preaching are the best delivery mechanisms (catalysts if you like) for revelation. According to the Christian gospel you can’t even begin to have this kind of revelation unless you are born from above (John 3:3, 1 Cor. 2:9, 10). Secondly, there is a limit to what the intellect can know about God. As Paul, quoting from Isaiah, says at the end of his discourse on predestination in Romans: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements and his ways past beyond finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord that he should be his counsellor?”
But we do have the mind of Christ. And God does want us to use it.
The posts I am putting up currently about “He who Overcomes” are a form of systematic theology. The subject matter is mainly eschatological and the conclusions are not always main stream evangelical but the application is here and now and the hope is eternal. I’ve found the understanding of what an Overcomer is and the implications of the promises to an overcomer very helpful for the last 20 years or so since God first began to show me these things. I’m really praying you will too.
There is a warning though, if you are looking for a debate I’m not interested. If you think I am wrong prove it from the Scripture but please do it in love, I’m not that young anymore and I have a heart condition 🙂