Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Humbling Our Theology to God and His Word - The Bible

In thinking more about humbling my thingking to God and his word when it comes to theological development, I believe that the key is to test our presuppositions, preunderstandings and theological systems by the Word of God, making the Scriptures our preeminent authority, not to deny that we have a theological system. I admit that this is not easy to do, since many times we have emotional commitments to certain theological systems (or parts of theological systems) because:
  • We still suffer from indwelling sin and idolatry
  • We don't see the the scriptures from a whole or complete canonical viewpoint as God does. Thus we fail to place the particular passages in the right context, being satisfied to interpret a verse independently of the passage, a passage independently of the chapter, a chapter independently of the book, or a book independently of theTestament, or a Testament independently of the whole Bible.
  • We fail to see:
    • The Bible as one book and one Christian book (not seeing the Old Testament as ultimately a Jewish book)
    • The Old Testament as the context for the New Testament
    • The New Testament as the fulfillment of Old Testament.
  • We prioritize (and value) passages incorrectly.
  • We have inherent humanism with regard to our epistemology and the place Scripture with regard other authorities. (We start our thinking and theologizing from human reason, human experience, human evidentualism, and/or human faith)
  • We place our experiences (Church, theological, spiritual) above the Scriptures.
  • We tend to follow men rather than God.
  • We believe that we can start reading the Bible from neutral position as unbiased students (The myth of neutrality).
  • We are prideful of believe we are completely independent thinkers – not realizing that we stand on the shoulders of others.
  • We have an improper understanding of theological triage (or levels of beliefs).
  • We are blinded by our tradition.
  • Etc. (you all couple probably name more if you wanted to)
Since I am a “Bible Believing Christian”, a “Historic Evangelical”, and a Christ-Centered Baptist (of courses these categories of identity are not ever separated, but are helpful labels for me), I always want God's point of view - which is the truth (even if I have to admit that my specific theological tradition / system is wrong). This is why we are always growing in our theological development, and it is a joyful experience and journey when done prpoerly. Everyone is constantly developing their theological systems and worldviews. One way we battle our limitations (listed above) is through our commitment to a local community of believers - a local church – in order to check our understandings and make us think of different perspectives we might have not considered otherwise. The goal of our theology is doxology (worship) of the one and true living God, creator of all that is, through His Son Jesus Christ.

We should all strive to be consistent in holding to the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" and the "Analogy of Scripture (Scripture interprets Scripture). These are important preunderstandings that will serve us well, but we should not jettison other preunderstandings nor can we. No one is neutral, nor should one (the myth of neutrality). We must understand what we believe and why we believe it scripturally, so that we can conscientiously test and critique. I like dr. Bob Morey's idea of being an exegetical theologian.

It is not wrong to test our presupposition and preunderstandings by asking a question of a text, book , passage, etc. and then performing proper exegesis. When we ask questions of the Biblical text (sincerely wanting God's point of view), we must realize that the answer we get may not be an alternative that the question when first created anticipated. For example it is perfectly legitmitate and proper to read through thte Gospel of John while asking “Does the apostle John use the term “Son of God” to mean merely a human man or a divine man?” It is also proper to read thruogh Acts while asking a question, “What does Acts (or Acts 2) tell us about the mode of baptism: infant or believer?”

Why begin with those two pre-understandings, limiting the NT to one or the other? How about just preaching what the NT says about the church? At some point I hope to re-preach my eschatology and do my best to approach it only from a biblical perspective, without a preconceived theology that makes the Scripture conform to my own ideas.

Here is a good short paper on the Guidelines for Writing a Research Paper in New Testament Exegesis that I think is beleificial in our discussion:

Summary of Steps of exposition from the above article:
  1. Genral Purpose: clarify and discover or communicate and persuade
  2. State the problem - Determine what problem you intend to solve by stateing it in form of a question limited by the length of sermon, paper, etc.
  3. Report the views of others - discover and find (research) where other good thinkers have posed the same problem and to read how they tried to solve it. Writing that does not reflect a concern with what other great men have thought is probably be born of provincialism and arrogance. It will have no historical depth to it and will probably propose as "new" what has been said for centuries. Give a rationale for your goal in writing in view of these views.
  4. Quote the specific passages you are concerned with and why you have limited yourself to these.. Declair state the problem with regard to the precise New Testament passages with which you will be working, if you did not do this in #2
  5. Exegesis – establish the text, come to terms with the author, relating the parts to each other, relating text to immediate context, relating the historical context, relating the text into the larger theological context or framework of the author (Author).
  6. Summary and furthur investigation needed which you cannot do now.
  7. Difference for today
Note: These dozen steps should not be considered hard and fast rules for the way every paper must be presented. Many times the steps will coalesce and there may be other steps you think need to be added. These are only "practical guidelines." But take them seriously as the kinds of questions that must be asked and the general order in which to ask them.


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