Hi All - thoughts on the below?
Paradigm shifts, science and Systematic theology
Logos = Word and Logic
Theo = Relating to God or deities
In accordance to a fixed plan or system (structured, logical, orderly) – methodical (a systematic or established form of procedure)
Therefore Systematic Theology is the ordered, logical, rational study of God and His character and nature as revealed to us through his Word.
The original idea behind systematic theology is based on certain assumptions. Assumptions being “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof”
Science itself is also based on certain assumptions – these being:
· There are natural causes for things that happen in the world around us.
· Evidence from the natural world can be used to learn about those causes.
· There is consistency in the causes that operate in the natural world.
A scientific theory has hypotheses (also called axioms or assumptions) which determine the theory.
I am using this example to clarify the term “assumptions”. That even the science we venerate above God is based on “assumptions”
The assumptions for Systematic theology:
· That God has revealed Himself to man not only through nature but through the writings of the prophets and apostles – His Word
· That when God reveals Himself it is in accordance to His character. As He is not the author of confusion (1 Cor 14:33) His revealed Word will be orderly, clear, concise, consistent and meant to be intelligible.
A further assumption would be that God’s revelation through the scriptures manifests the following attributes:
· That there is UNITY in His Word.
· That even though there is great diversity it all fits together and has unity in Him
· That because of this UNITY there is COHERENCE in His Word
· And finally, It is CONSISTENT as He is (Heb 13:8)
My assumption would be that you have some knowledge of God’s Word, are saved and believe that His Word is entirely true and without error.
Systematic Theology is the study of God through His Word using the system He provided. That system being a unified, logical, consistent, methodical, coherent planned study where the tiniest detail impacts and correlates EVERY other point in His Word. This is HIS system and the problem with Theology and any form of bible study today is that we impose our system and expect it to work and when it doesn’t we say the bible and by association God must be in error instead of us.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
THIS IS THE PURPOSE AND FULL SCOPE OF THEOLOGY
To be instructed by God through His Word to be equipped to do His will.
Even though there are many competing systems of Systematic Theology that claim to be faithful to His Word we need to remember that these systems are not always infallible as man is fallible and that the doctrines revealed through these competing systems are to be tested. Some examples would be:
· Dispensational Theology (Scofield)
· Reformed theology
· “Calvinism” (who did nothing more than repeat St Augustine and others before him)
· Arminianism (free will)
If these systems do not agree on the fundamental doctrines of the bible then the system is in error and one needs to test them.
The study of Theology in any form is a science. The term science derived from the Latin word for Knowledge. Therefore through God’s revealed nature and character through His Word we have true knowledge of him (this presupposes you believe in God and the infallibility and inerrancy of His Word). So the science of Theology is to gain a coherent, consistent knowledge of God and His message.
The only way theology could not be a science is if it was impossible for us to attain any knowledge of God.
In science we have what is called Paradigm shifts. This is a fundamental change in our approach or underlying assumptions that make up a specific paradigm or scientific model. When this happens it is caused by anomalies within the model becoming more than what any scientist can ignore or easily explain away.
Thomas Kuhn states a revolution occurs within the scientific community when anomalies occur that cannot be explained by the universally accepted paradigm. When the anomalies become too great to be ignored a paradigm shift occurs that usually ends up with battle lines being drawn by opposing scientists. A case in point would be the transition between Maxwellian electromagnetic worldview and the Einsteinian relativistic worldview, the earth is round versus the earth is flat, who revolves around who – the sun or the earth.
These paradigm shifts after being resolved always end up with new knowledge being discovered and great progress being made in the sciences.
However, paradigm shifts in Theology are never a good thing. The knowledge that God has revealed to us in His Word has not changed. It’s the same that has been studied by scholars for millennia. And it is highly unlikely that any will occur so why have they in this period of the 20th century?
God’s Word is complete. There can be no knew discovery of knowledge of Him, only a deeper understanding as we diligently rightly divide. Any paradigm shifts in theology are never driven by new discoveries but rather by new philosophies driven by men that try to impose their system upon that of God’s. Or they try to achieve a synthesis between modern philosophies and teachings that are secular driven and impose those upon God’s Word again expecting it to work and when it doesn’t then the bible and by association God must be in error.
Novelty in theology is dangerous. Novelty being the constant fascination with something new and the drive within the modern church to find new and fresh knowledge to achieve popularity, water down God’s Word and achieve momentary fame. Paul encountered this humane drive for constant new philosophies at Mars hill (Acts 17:21)
We do need individual progress in our knowledge and understanding of God’s revealed knowledge but need to be very wary and circumspect of any “new” discovery that is not coherent, consistent and backed up by the scriptures in their entirety, not just a verse out of context here and there.
Therefore the need for Systematic Theology
The Word of God studied in a manner that follows His system revealed to us through his Character.
· In context
· Putting Him first and not the world
A system where we take His Word in its ENTIRETY within CONTEXT and where EVERYTHING fits together.
A system that does not cause confusion. His Word studied correctly will never cause confusion and we must never mistake our lack of understanding and knowledge as the fault of His Word, but rather search deeper and rightly divide.