We must do theology biblically; because we could do theology Islamically and even do Christian theology a-biblically. (No one, at least no Christian, would claim to do Christian theology un-biblically … or would they?) We want to do Christian theology in a way that is faithful to the model we see held up as normative in the foundational source of theology: namely, Scripture. Of course, there is Biblical Theology (in capitals), just as there are other divisions of Christian Theology (e.g., Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, etc.). But here we are looking at biblical theology (lower-case) to distinguish it from the formal discipline of Biblical Theology. So how do we do theology biblically? Before we get to this question, let us consider a list of the formal divisions of Christian Theology:
- Traditional divisions of Christian Theology:
- Historical Theology – development of doctrine over time
- Philosophical Theology – coherence of the faith; “in-house”
- Polemical Theology – apologetics; outwardly focused
- Biblical Theology (Old Testament & New Testament theology) – focused on the histories of the texts and the historical developments of the teachings of the texts [Ex: genocide passages in Joshua]
- Systematic Theology – typically incorporates most of all the above but also offers something distinct: namely, a response to the question, What does the whole Bible teach us today about a particular doctrine?
In brief, doing theology biblically means drawing on Scripture as the most foundational source for understanding God’s, and therefore the normative Christian, view on a particular major doctrine or life issue.
Sources of Christian Theology:
Traditionally, there are three or four sources of Christian theology (depending on what one counts): Scripture – the 66 books comprising the Old & New Testaments which is the Word of God; tradition – what the early Church fathers and others down through Church history say on a matter; reason – conclusions we draw based on what we see in the natural world, i.e., general revelation; and experience – the encounters we have of the world and of God himself both individually and collectively.
[Illustration] Wine Glass:
Scripture – bottom of the glass which undergirds the whole enterprise of Christian Theology
Tradition – the glass itself which gives structure to all the teachings and applications of those teachings
Reason – the opening of the glass which allows us both to reflect on the world around us (look up out of the glass) and the world within us
Experience – the water poured in (like the Holy Spirit) which flows wherever it will; notice, however, that the water is bound by the structure (tradition) and foundation (Scripture)
- How is this description different from the everyday individual who thinks theologically? Answer: It’s a matter of degree. (See p. 17.2ff.)
- Organization; b. detail; c. accuracy; d. scripturally systematic
- Theological themes/categories: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Glorification
- What is a doctrine? Answer: A substantive biblical teaching derived from Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience). (See p. 17.3.2)
- One ought to allow the experience – or even reported experiences – of healing inform or at least in some way impact one’s doctrinal stances.
- Examples: Trinity, Incarnation, deity of Christ, prayer, predestination/free-will, salvation
- On adjudicating between major and minor doctrines: “A major doctrine is one that has a significant impact on our thinking about other doctrines, or that has a significant impact on how we live. A minor doctrine is one that has very little impact on our thinking about other doctrines, or that has very little impact on how we live” (Grudem, 21).
- How to do theology biblically:
- Prayerfully: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Ps. 119.18)
- Humbly: “[The] wisdom from above is … pure, … peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (Ja. 2.17).
- Rationally (i.e., using reason): St. Peter (Acts 2.14-41) and St. Paul (Acts 17.22-32).
- Communally: Theology is always done not only for the Church but by the Church.
- Systematically: Scripture, summaries of Scripture, synthesis (with other theological studies)
- Worshipfully: All theology should lead to doxology (cf. RSP at the Bodleian)
- ‘Mystically’: Rom. 11.33-36