Systematic Theology


The power of wind on rock, shaping it as it blows against it.

Hey guys. This semester has been a frustrating, amazing, blessing filled semester. I have been taking a class on Modern and Post-Modern Theology, and in my countless hours of trying to understand one word that I have been reading, one thing has become very clear to me. It seems as if, since the Enlightenment (which is the culmination of several currents of thought ranging from the Renaissance to the Reformation), the task of theology has been dominated by a man-centered view, but in a very strange, hopeless way. I know that we all can agree that Modernity has ushered in an age of anthropocentric idolatry, placing man as the central character of history. But it seems that this turn to self is subtly influencing the way even we do theology in the sense that it is forcing us to answer questions on Enlightenment-Modernity-Post-Modernity’s terms.

The fundamental question is this: What do we start with? Theology Proper? If we start with God, what is the basis of OUR knowledge? What about Bibliology? If we start with the Bible, we give a grounding to the basis of OUR knowledge, but how can WE justify OUR belief that the Scriptures are orienting our pursuits towards the true God? These questions seem like the right questions. If we are to have a right view of God, we do need to have a rational response to these questions. But my concern is that these questions have become the central focus of the task of theology, and the problem with that is it’s fundamentally man centered in its approach to our knowing God.

I have been thinking through the consequents of this, and I have just begun to roll around in the ol’ noggin an answer to the question of the proper jumping point for theology. This is just a thought, and I covet your responses in support of or correction of, but what about starting the task of theology with Pneumatology? There are several reasons I am leaning towards this, and here are some of ’em:

It is the Holy Spirit that wrote, protected, and illuminates the Scriptures.

1. He wrote them through divine inspiration, guiding the authors’ pens.

2. He protected them by moving through the Fathers whom He indwelled to put together a canon and closing it.

3. He illuminates them today, moving in the hearts of the elect, guiding them into all truth and sanctifying them through an encounter with God.

Like I said, this is just the beginning of my working through this, but it seems like a good way of moving theology past the chaos that results from focusing on the limitations of humanity’s perspectival knowledge and into the beautiful confidence and rest that flows from the glorious truth that we can know God because He Himself is the basis of our knowledge of Him. It seems risky, as it takes us past the foundationalism that is the byproduct of Descarte’s thought, but perhaps faith that the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth and protect the sacred deposit of truth found in the Scriptures will elevate our theology from the mechanical connection of propositions to a sublime flow of the power and love of God as the Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. Just a thought.

P.S. I do think that the bible is made up of propositions that contain truth, and that these propositions can be known rationally. I hold to the Correspondence Theory of truth, that a thing is true if and only if it corresponds to reality, and a step further, that reality is what God says it is in Scripture- placing the Bible as the final authority of what is real. All I am saying is, it might be beneficial to begin our theology not from the starting point of the limitations of man, which is presupposed when beginning theology from the Theology Proper/Bibliology question, but from the study of the active agent in our knowing God, presupposing instead the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the elect for the task of knowing and proclaiming God in the world.

P.P.S. Love you guys. Let me know what you think.


4 responses to “Systematic Theology

  1. Great stuff Nate!!! I hope to chew on this some today and give you a better response, but I am here at Flying Star and just wanted to encourage you saying I enjoyed reading this!!

  2. Yeah, great thoughts… Scott (a fellow Orlando RTSer) and I were talking about this the other day. I think we can run into problems when we try and get really specific with starting points, just like a philosopher who takes his views one step too far and loses reality. Keeping it more general like this makes a whole lot more sense. That, and I think we really are starting everywhere at once when it comes to systematic theology…or biblical theology. It’s a spiral of each informing the other. It’s like trying to separate or figure out what Christ’s deity from His humanity.
    But the Spirit is a great starting point and kind of bypasses what can be some fruitless argumentation.

  3. Justin Richter

    Yeah boyeeee!!! True man, there are many starting points and no starting points. Do we start with man or God. For me I start with the Apocrypha. Or not. Seriously though, the problem is not where we start from, but where do we under emphasize. The problem is that are theology stands on one leg and gets pushed over. Today our anthropology might be overemphasized in relation to the Proper. GWillson, how is the car? Don’t kill the Black Beauty.

  4. I start with the Gospel of Thomas, by the way. But good point, Justin, on the focus being of emphasis.
    And your car is tearing it up! It has taken me to RTS in styyyyle.

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