Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In Pursuit of Light: We Worship What We Know

As we reflect on the doing of theology as a means to the end of the worship of God, the first thing to consider is, as Jesus says to the woman at the well, true worshipers worship what they know. Worship in ignorance is no worship at all. Therefore, if we are to worship God, we must go to the only source of His self-revelation that He has given: the Scriptures.

Many different understandings of what it means to do theology abound even within evangelicalism. For our purposes, we will define theology as "the comprehensive, holistic interpretation of Scripture for the purpose of intimately knowing and rightly worshiping God" (Andy Snider, Class Notes).

First of all, our definition of theology has Scripture, the Word of God, at its center. This is so because this is how god has chosen to reveal Himself to His people. We are aware that there are those who view such a conviction as inherently rationalistic. For example, in an article on theological method entitled, "How I Changed My Mind," John Armstrong wrote, "Theology must be a humble human attempt to 'hear him' -- never about rational approaches to texts."

Such men prefer instead to focus on the experience of God, whether that experience be personal or communal. Friedrich Schleiermacher is the archetypical liberal, emphasizing the individual's personal experience with God (his "God-consciousness") as the source of doctrine. Postliberals such as George Lindbeck and Brian McLaren focus more on theology as a community's dynamic experience of God.

While such detractors object to this exaltation of Scripture, arguing that is in the person of Christ Himself that God is supremely and preeminently revealed (Jn 1:18; 14:9; Col 1:15; Heb 1:2), they err by pitting the Living Word against the written Word. In the opening verses of the letter to the Hebrews, the author indeed acknowledges that in these last days God has spoken to us in His son. And while he does intend to showcase the supremacy of Christ over even the Old Testament revelation to the fathers through the prophets (Heb 1:1-2). God has indeed spoken through the prophets, and such revelation has been recorded for us in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Further, the Apostle Peter, who himself saw the revealed glory of the transfigured Christ on the Mount of Olives, declared that we have in the Scriptures "something more sure" than that glorious revelation (2Pet 1:19). Apparently, Peter regarded Scripture as a superior source of revelation even than his own amazing experience of Christ Himself.

Finally, Christ Himself has legitimized this focus on Scripture as the foundational source of theology (cf. Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, xxviii). When He came to the synagogue in Nazareth intending to teach doctrine, He turned to the words of Scripture and announced that the prophecy of Isaiah had been fulfilled in their hearing (Lk 4:16-21). When He was questioned about the doctrines concerning marriage and divorce, He appealed to the text of Scripture as His authority (Mk 10:1-9). When He sought to expound the doctrine of the Messiah, He presented an exegesis of Psalm 110 (Mt 22:41-46). And when He was teaching the doctrine of the Messiah's sufferings and resurrection, He established its truth by appealing to "all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" (Lk 24:44).

Thus, the study of the Scriptures, indeed profitable to equip the man of God for every good work (2Tim 3:16-17), is the divinely-appointed means of the study of God Himself. Any vague notion of "knowing Jesus," "studying Jesus," or "pursuing a relationship with Jesus" that does not include the study of, the knowledge of, and the pursuit of the Scriptures, is subbiblical and should be considered suspect. If we are to know God, we must seek Him by means of His revelation: the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.

Series Outline

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

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