We must return to our previously stated, working definition of theology, especially the second half: it is “the comprehensive, holistic interpretation of Scripture for the purpose of intimately knowing and rightly worshiping God.” To stop short of this purpose clause is to abort the God-given purpose for engaging in theology: to become worshipers of God in spirit and truth. If our theologizing does not affect us—if it does not change the way we think, feel, and act—we fail the task of doing theology.
No one has been a greater help to me in assimilating this truth into the depth of my soul than Jonathan Edwards. In his Miscellanies, he writes with staggering insight:
God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and the heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory [does not] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it. (Miscellanies, No. 448)That is a life-shaping, worldview-shattering paragraph.
If nothing else, it certainly provides the vision of the proper goal of the theological process. We must not only endeavor to know about God, studying to tantalize our intellect and amass theoretical knowledge. Rather, our labors in theology are a means to the end of knowing God Himself—in relationship. And then, knowing such a magnificently glorious God, necessarily loving and enjoying Him for the fullness of His goodness.
And it is impossible to have one without the other. What I mean is, God is not the kind of Being who can be known to a greater degree without being enjoyed to that same degree. To know God is to enjoy Him. Biographer George Marsden summarizes Edwards’s thinking in this regard:
“Beauty”…is not just an object of passive contemplation, but rather a transforming power. If one sees a beautiful person, said Edwards, one cannot help but be drawn to that person. One’s heart is drawn to that beauty, and one’s actions will follow one’s heart. So it is with the surpassing beauty of God as revealed in Christ.…If one glimpses the perfect beauty of such love, one cannot help but be drawn to it. (A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, 141)There is no room -- not even in a theology classroom, and especially not a Sunday school classroom -- for a passive contemplation of the glories of God in Christ. To study Him dispassionately, entirely unmoved by the stunning beauty that we behold in the face of Christ would be woefully dishonoring to God.
If we are to glorify God, we must not only see His glory (light), but rejoice in it (heat). We must cultivate that vision of who He is and what He has done so well that, as Vanhoozer says, "when we perceive it, it stops us in our tracks and elicits our praise."
Light and Heat: Introduction
1.1 - In Pursuit of Light: We Worship What We Know
1.2 - Systematics and Doctrine Matter
1.3 - Loving God with All Your Mind
2. In Pursuit of Heat: We Worship What We Know
3. Conclusion: Light and Heat, Spirit and Truth