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HOW TO DO THEOLOGY: A study into the process of doing theology

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Title: HOW TO DO THEOLOGY: A study into the process of doing theology


1
HOW TO DO THEOLOGY A study into the process of
doing theology
  • Systematic Theology may be defined as the
    collecting, scientifically arranging, comparing,
    exhibiting, and defending of all facts from any
    and every source concerning God and His works.?
  • Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer,
  • Systematic Theology, 16.

2
Introduction to Theological Method Lecture 6b
  • The Nature of Theological Method.
  • Why Harmonize/Systematize Theology?
  • Theological Methodology.
  • How Should We Then Live?
  • Appendix 1 Is Systematizing/harmonization a
    social construction of Western thought?

3
  • Part I.
  • The Nature of Theological Method

4
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • A. Theological methodology involves both truth
    ideas
  • Systematic Theology is primarily based upon
    truths derived from special and natural
    revelation.
  • Theological method engages exegetical, biblical,
    theological, philosophical claims of truths.
  • Theological method accepts those claims of truths
    that harmonizes with already established facts.

5
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • As Dr. Charles Hodge states in Systematic
    Theology, 11
  • If, therefore, theology be a science, it must
    include something more than a mere knowledge of
    facts. It must embrace an exhibition of the
    internal relation of those facts, one to another,
    and each to all. It must be able to show that if
    one be admitted, others cannot be denied.

6
The Nature of Theological Method Definition of
coherence
  • Critical to theological method is coherence.
    Coherence is an epistemological test for validity
    by examining the harmony, unity, and consistency
    of an idea to an already established system or
    harmonization of beliefs. If the propositional
    statement does not harmonize with the system of
    beliefs, then either the idea is wrong, needs
    refinement, etc. or the settled doctrines as we
    know them are wrong.

7
The Nature of Theological Method Definition of
coherence
  • However, the chances that the settled doctrines
    are invalid are very unlikely if we have
    consistently followed a plain, normal,
    grammatical-historical-literary method of
    interpretation.

8
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • B. Justification for this system is two-fold
  • External witness The witness of harmony,
    symmetry, and unity of nature, personhood,
    physical laws, and social well-being first
    principles of logic, and other investigative
    disciplines of study which seek to harmonize
    ideas with established facts.

9
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • B. Justification for this system is two-fold
  • 2. Internal witness The witness of Jesus use
    of Scripture, the fulfillment of prophecy, both
    the biblical, logical, and philosophical basis of
    and results of using a plain, normal,
    literal-grammatical, historical, literary method
    of interpretation, and correlative evidence to
    what we already know to be true in Scripture
    archeology, history, etc.

10
The Nature of Theological Method
  • C. Since the Bible is special revelation, a
    collection of divine propositional truths within
    literary context (s), the theologian does the
    following
  • collect,
  • authenticate,
  • arrange, and
  • exhibit divine truths in their internal relation
    to each other (coherence)

11
The Nature of Theological Method
  • Critical to theological methodology is an
    examination into ones spiritual life before the
    process is to begin for you dont want to hinder
    the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit.
    Stated differently, since we are dealing with
    divine truth, seeking to accurately represent His
    interests, we must be dependent upon the Holy
    Spirit. To study and do theology according to
    the flesh is disrespectful, dishonoring,
    short-sighted, and even hypocritical.

12
The Nature of Theological Method
  • 1. Are you rightly related to God?
  • 2. Have you confessed all known sins (1 John
    19)?
  • 3. Are you grieving the Holy Spirit?
  • 4. Are you quenching any aspect of the Holy
    Spirit in your life?
  • Are their areas in your life whereby you are
    unwilling to submit over to God?
  • 6. Are you yielded to God?

13
The Nature of Theological Method An overview of
the process
  • E. An overview of the
  • six-step theological method

14
The Nature of Theological Method An overview of
the process
  • 1st Step Inductively arrive at an exegetical
    proposition that accurately reflects the intended
    meaning of the Author/author that harmonizes with
    first principles of logic (e.g., Law of
    Non-Contradiction). For example Man is totally
    depraved (Romans 323).

15
The Nature of Theological Method An overview of
the process
  • 2nd Step Propositional statement is then
    tested for coherence by a synchronic application
    both biblically (letting Scripture interpret
    Scripture) and already settled doctrinal beliefs.
    In other words, does the propositional statement
    cohere with what the Bible teaches elsewhere and
    what we already know to be true doctrinally?

16
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 3rd Step The statement then is comprehensively
    formulated from exegesis, authorial intent, and
    within the boundaries of settled doctrinal
    beliefs. Then cogent justifications are offered
    and appropriate illustrations are made we need
    to know why we believe what we believe.

17
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 4th Step The propositional doctrine is then
    examined under the lens of general revelation and
    natural law to see potential doctrine
    successfully coheres with these foundational
    prescriptive beliefs (Romans 212-15). If the
    doctrine violates general revelation and
    prescriptive natural law, it is suspect.

18
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 5th Step Then one examines the propositional
    statement under the lens of historical theology
    for correlative insight. Historical theology is
    valuable because many doctrinal mistakes,
    debates, creeds, formulations have already been
    discussed in past eras of theological discourse
    development.

19
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 6th Step Finally, personal and community
    life-applications are made in order to test
    livability. The doctrine is suspect if we cant
    apply it in our love-relationship with God,
    seeking only to do that which will give God the
    most glory.

20
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • Summary
  • My method of theological coherence implores you
    to appropriately, carefully, meditatively,
    purposefully, prayerfully, microscopically,
    reflectively, repeatedly, comprehensively
    examine to see if your exegetical propositional
    statement coheres and harmonizes with first
    principles of logic, Bible (concentric author,
    sentence, paragraph, book, authors writings,
    testament, and Bible) , settled doctrinal beliefs
    (dogmatic theology), natural law. Then one
    proceeds to examine historical theology for
    correlative insight and conclude by establishing
    appropriate life application.

21
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • Lets take a deeper look into the
  • six-fold method of
  • theological coherence

22
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • Inductive Approach Ascertain and state the
    truths of Scripture
  • a. diachronically,
  • b. exegetically,
  • c. Inductively,
  • d. Logically, i.e., First Principles of Logic
    (e.g., law of non-contradiction).

23
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 2. Cohere the propositional statement to the
    following (synchronic approach)
  • a. Passage, unit of thought, book, biblical
    theology, the whole Bible.
  • b. The proposition to other doctrinal
    statements or settled beliefs. Look for
    consistency, harmony, symmetry unity.

24
Synchronic Approach Begin with the Word and
progress towards Bible
25
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 3. Formulate comprehensive doctrine
  • a. Formulate offer biblical, logical,
    theological, philosophical justification
    answer the question why.
  • b. Present illustrations (illustrations shed
    light on the cogency of your proposition).

26
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • C. Remember, any systematization that you do must
    be made with diligence, attention to detail,
    care, and reverence. I would argue that many
    differences of opinion or poor statements in
    theological discourse are due to hermeneutical
    mistakes and un-tested assumptions which
    unfortunately have been incorporated into a poor
    theological system or belief paradigm.

27
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • D. Any systematization must also be thoroughly
    comprehensive and if possible, exhaustive every
    detail must be examined and correlated. Consider
    the following quotations from Dr. Charles Hodge
    regarding those who were not comprehensive in
    their harmonization of Gods Word Systematic
    Theology, 111.

28
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • An imperfect induction of facts led men for
    ages to believe that the sun moved round the
    earth, and that the earth was an extended plain.
    In theology a partial induction of particulars
    has led to like serious errors. It is a fact that
    the Scriptures attribute omniscience to Christ.
    From this it was inferred that He could not have
    had a finite intelligence, but that the Logos was
    clothed in Him with a human body with its animal
    life. But it is also a Scriptural fact that
    ignorance and intellectual progress, as well as
    omniscience, are ascribed to our Lord. Both
    facts, therefore, must be included in our
    doctrine of his person. We must admit that He had
    a human, as well as a divine intelligence.

29
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • It is a fact that everything that can be
    predicated of a sinless man, is in the Bible,
    predicated of Christ and it is also a fact that
    everything that is predicated of God is
    predicated of our Lord hence it has been
    inferred that there were two Christ's,two
    persons,the one human, the other divine, and
    that they dwelt together very much as the Spirit
    dwells in the believer or, as evil spirits dwelt
    in demoniacs. But this theory overlooked the
    numerous facts which prove the individual
    personality of Christ. It was the same person who
    said, I thirst who said, Before Abraham was I
    am.

30
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • The Scriptures teach that Christs death was
    designed to reveal the love of God, and to secure
    the reformation of men. Hence Socinus denied that
    his death was an expiation for sin, or
    satisfaction of justice. The latter fact,
    however, is as clearly revealed as the former
    and therefore both must be taken into account
    in-our statement of the doctrine concerning the
    design of Christs death.

31
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 4. We need to evaluate our propositional
    statement against first principles of moral
    belief, ie., what we know to be universally true
    and self-evident such as those prescriptive moral
    commands inscribed upon the human heart (Romans
    212-15). For example

32
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • A. Since we sow what we reap and reap what
    we sow, does our theological proposition
    harmonize with the witness of godly noble
    virtues consequences (Galatians 522-23
    Colossians 31-17)?
  • B. Since we are designed by God, does it
    harmonize with the witness of our human design
    (Genesis 126-27 Psalm 139 Romans 1-2)?

33
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • C. Since we inherently know what is right
    from wrong, does it harmonize with the
    witness of our conscience (Romans 1-2)?

34
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • D. Does our theological proposition
    harmonize with the invisible attributes of
    God as revealed in creation (Romans 1-2)?
  • E. Does our theological proposition affirm the
    golden rule of Do unto others as you would
    have them do unto you?

35
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 5. Test the coherence of your potential
    proposition once more, but this time, looking for
    harmony and consistency in historical theology

36
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • a. Historical theology may offer additional
    justification.
  • b. Historical theology may have already debated a
    similar doctrinal belief.
  • c. Historical theology may even shed light on how
    this proposition may impact communities of belief
    and the society (s) around them, positively
    and/or negatively.

37
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • The student of nature having this ground on
    which to stand, and these tools wherewith to
    work, proceeds to perceive, gather, and combine
    his facts. These he does not pretend to
    manufacture, nor presume to modify. He must take
    them as they are. He is only careful to be sure
    that they are real, and that he has them all, or,
    at least all that are necessary to justify any
    inference which he may draw from them, or any
    theory which he may build upon them.
  • Dr. Charles Hodge, Systematic theology, 19.

38
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • 6. Lastly, Test its livability by application
  • a. Yourself
  • b. Family
  • c. Community
  • d. Society.

39
I. The Nature of Theological Method
  • E. Before we move onto consider why we should
    seek theological coherence (harmony, unity, and
    consistency), lets review two other
    complementary theological methods by two
    outstanding theologians
  • Theological Method proposed by Dr. Norman
    Geisler
  • Theological Method proposed by Dr Mike Stallard.

40
Exegesis inductive logical Approach
1.
Synchronic Approach biblically doctrinally
2.
3.
Harmonize doctrine, offer justification,
illustrate
4.
Harmonizes with General Revelation and Natural
Law
Historical Theology offers Correlative Insight
5.
6.
Appropriate Applications Test of Livability
41
The Nature of Theological Method Consider Dr.
Norman Geislers Approach from Systematic
Theology, v.1.
  • Step 1 Inductive Basis in Scripture.
  • Step 2 Deduction of Truths from Scripture.
  • Step 3 Use of Analogies (illustrative support
    by good analogies).
  • Step 4 Use of General Revelation and Natural
    Law.
  • Step 5 Retroductive Method (use of all
    information to refine, nuance, and fill out our
    understanding of what is meant in previous
    steps).

42
The Nature of Theological Method Consider Dr.
Norman Geislers Approach
  • Step 6 Systematic Correlation (of all
    information into a fully orbed doctrine
    through the use of the laws of logic that
    insist all truth must be non-contradictory).
  • Step 7 Each doctrine is correlated with all
    other doctrines.
  • Step 8 Each doctrine is expressed in view of
    the orthodox teachings of the Church Fathers.
  • Step 9 Livability is the final test for
    Systematic Theology (Christianity is not
    merely metaphysics or theoretical it is also
    ethical and practical).

43
The Nature of Theological Method Consider Dr.
Mike Stallards Approach
  • Level 1 Biblical Theology (restricted to authors
    history).
  • Level 2 Integration or synthesis across authors
    and history (has been called Intermediate
    biblical theology).
  • Level 3 Categorization or systematization of the
    results of integration.
  • Level 4 Validation or invalidation of truth
    claims from outside the Bible.
  • Level 5 Application to Life.

44
The Nature of Theological Method Consider Dr.
Mike Stallards Approach
  • Now having considered a theological method, lets
    proceed to examine why we should seek harmony,
    unity, and consistency
  • Part II

45
II. Why Harmonize, Seek Unity, Consistency?
  • 1. Natural Purpose We have a natural tendency
    to collect and harmonize those things of which
    we observe it is part of our God-given human
    design, a constitutive aspect of our humanity.
  • 2. Cognitive/Psychological Purpose Rarely in
    any discipline of study are we satisfied with
    fragmentation, tension, mass of uncollected
    ideas or facts
  • a. Ecology (complementary aspects of unity
    within diversity of life)
  • b. Geography (facts and collections).
  • c. Philosophy (critical thinking)
  • d. Hard sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics)
  • e. Music (e.g., tension/resolution).
  • f . Aesthetics (e.g., Monroe Beardsley)

46
II. Why Harmonize?
  • Pedagogical Purpose
  • If we would discharge our duty as teachers and
    defenders of the truth, we must endeavor to bring
    all the facts of revelation into systematic order
    and mutual relation. It is only thus that we can
    satisfactorily exhibit their truth, vindicate
    them from objections, or bring them to bear in
    their full force on the minds of men Hodge,
    Systematic Theology, 12.

47
II. Why Harmonize?
  • 4. Discovery Purpose
  • a. The truths of the Bible are all related and
    determined by the nature of God who is the One
    and Only Triune God, absolutely logical,
    coherent, and harmonious. Thus, His creation
    reflects those aspects.
  • b. Just as He has purposed us with a mind and
    ability to study His creation and discover the
    inorganic and organic relation and harmonious
    combination, we should study Scripture and
    discover the harmony, symmetry, and unity of
    Gods revelation.

48
III. Why Theological Method?
  • Part III
  • Why is theological method necessary

49
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • Since the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture
    (verbal, plenary), there is continuity of thought
    from Genesis 11-Revelation 2220
  • Since God is logical, coherent, and consistent,
    His Word is going to be logical, coherent, and
    consistent even within literary, historical
    contexts.

50
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • C. He created humanity in the image of God which
    is holistic content, authority, community,
    representation. Thus, we are designed with a
    predisposition to analyze, arrange, categorize,
    collect, and correlate it is part of our
    teleological, prescriptive design.

51
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • We are purposefully designed to analyze, arrange,
    categorize, collect, and correlate it is one
    purpose of our God-given teleological design.
  • The use of the mind is critical in seeking,
    learning, loving God as opposed to
    anti-intellectualism, existentialism,
    experientialism, and mysticism.

52
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • F. We are inherently aesthetically pleased with
    consistency, harmony, and unity in architecture,
    art, music, etc.
  • G. We are purposefully designed to assume the
    trustworthiness of our God-given sense
    perceptions (five senses).

53
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • H. We are purposefully designed to trust our
    cognitive faculties.
  • I. We are purposefully designed to take for
    granted that we perceive, compare, combine,
    remember, and infer.
  • J. We are purposefully designed safely rely upon
    these mental faculties when used appropriately
    (vision for seeing).

54
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • K. We are designed to believe with assurance of
    those truths which are not learned from
    experience, but which are given in view of the
    teleological design of our human nature.
  • L. We also recognize in Gods design of creation
    that every effect must have a cause that the
    same cause under like circumstances, will produce
    like effects that a cause is not a mere uniform
    antecedent, but that which contains within itself
    the reason why the effect occurs.

55
III. Why is Theological Method Necessary?
  • Therefore, in the words of Dr. Charles Hodge
  • The student of nature having this ground on
    which to stand, and these tools wherewith to
    work, proceeds to perceive, gather, and combine
    his facts. These he does not pretend to
    manufacture, nor presume to modify. He must take
    them as they are. He is only careful to be sure
    that they are real, and that he has them all, or,
    at least all that are necessary to justify any
    inference which he may draw from them, or any
    theory which he may build upon them.
  • Systematic theology, 19.

56
Why is Theological Method Necessary? The bottom
line
  • The goal of having a coherent biblical-theological
    method is to (1) expose inadequate
    justifications for belief and (2) provide a solid
    basis for validating or invalidating truth claims.

57
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • A. Appreciate the Author of our theology The
    one and only Triune God if God said it, we need
    to know it.
  • B. Learning theology is pleasurable for there is
    no greater pursuit than that of the study of God.

58
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • Correct theology is crucial for appropriate and
    godly behavior.
  • D. Resist all forms of anti-intellectualism
    because we are commanded to know, practice, and
    defend the truth (2 John Jude).

59
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • Resist continental theory because it is
    self-defeating, anti-authoritative, and cynical
    it is vacuous for it only offers a critique of
    modernism based upon an unbiblical mindset and a
    rejection of metaphysics. And though their
    critique against modernism is insightful at
    times, their assumptions are self-defeating.

60
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • Teach people how to do theology for themselves.
    It is not merely enough to assist them, we need
    to enable them. It is not merely enough to teach
    them what they believe, they need to know why.
    Finally, we need to pro-actively equip ourselves
    so we can equip others in proclaiming,
    practicing, protecting the biblical doctrines
    of the Christian faith (Jude 3).

61
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • Take ownership regarding why you believe what you
    believe.
  • Sound theology protects us from erroneous
    exegetical claims and proper exegesis informs our
    theology.
  • I. Remember What we believe in one area of
    theology tends to directly or indirectly impact
    all other areas of theology.

62
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • Dont neglect, overlook, or reject certain facts
    in Scripture that are uncomfortable or unpopular.
  • k. Dont distort or pervert claims of Scripture
    because they dont cohere to your theological
    worldview. Rather, evaluate and adjust
    accordingly even if it means that you will be
    humiliated for what you believe. It is by far to
    be teachable than arrogant, esp. since you are
    representing Gods interests.

63
IV. How Should We Then Live?
  • As Dr. Charles Hodge says
  • He theologian should remember that his
    business is not to set forth his system of truth
    (that is of no account), but to ascertain and
    exhibit what is Gods system, which is a matter
    of the greatest moment. If he cannot believe what
    the facts of the Bible assume to be true, let him
    say solong, however, as the binding authority of
    Scripture is acknowledged, the temptation is very
    strong to press the facts of the Bible into
    accordance with our preconceived theories.
  • Systematic Theology, 114.

64
Appendix 1 Why Systematize or Harmonize
Doctrine?
  • Continental critical, structural theorists and
    even postmodern evangelicals contend that
    systematizing theology needs to be rejected
    because it is a biased, modern mindset that is
    actually imposing a social construction upon
    theological methodology
  • Systematization/harmonization is a product of
    modernism.
  • 2. Systematization contends for an Archimedean
    point of view.

65
Appendix 1 Why Systematize or Harmonize
Doctrine?
  • 3. Systematization/harmonization contends for
    objective truth that transcends time, space, and
    culture.
  • 4. Systematization ignores context how can we be
    able to even see objectively if we are inside
    and not beyond culture?

66
Appendix 1 Why Harmonize?
  • b. Response to critical, continental theorists
  • 1.To systematize, harmonize, categorize, and
    arrange is not a modern construction for it has
    always been a natural tendency in our God-given
    mindset to systematize it is expressed in every
    era of both church and secular history (e.g.,
    Platos Republic Aristotles Metaphysics).
  • 2.To not harmonize/systematize is not
    pragmatically workable for one cant live without
    arrangement, identification, categorization,
    prescription, or systematization.

67
Appendix 1 Why Harmonize?
  • 3. To not harmonize/systematize is
    counter-intuitive we instantly negatively
    react to fragmentation and discord.
  • 4. Continental perspective is self-defeating-
    for how can they claim that there is no objective
    truth, an Archimedean point of view that
    transcends time, culture, and geography their
    view is self-defeating.

68
Appendix 1 Why Harmonize?
  • 5. To not harmonize/systematize is rebellious
    to the harmony, symmetry, and consistency in the
    teleological design of creation, human design,
    community, and the inherent need to depend upon
    others for mutual protection, economic
    development trade, procreation, aesthetics,
    entertainment.

69
Appendix 1 Why Harmonize?
  • 6. To not harmonize/systematize is even
    rebellious towards the teleological design of the
    local and universal church whereby we are created
    and gifted to compliment each other as the body
    of Christ.
  • 7. To not harmonize/systematize is rebellious
    against first principles of logic, teleological
    design of language (see the writings of Leon
    Chomsky), and mathematics.
  • 8. To not harmonize/systematize goes against the
    harmony, unity, consistency of God Himself, the
    one and only Triune God.

70
Appendix 1 Why Harmonize?
  • As Charles Hodge states
  • We cannot know what God has revealed in his
    Word unless we understand, at least in some good
    measure, the relation in which the separate
    truths therein contained stand to each other. It
    cost the Church centuries of study and
    controversy to solve the problem concerning the
    person of Christ that is, to adjust and bring
    into harmonious arrangement all the facts which
    the Bible teaches on that subject. Systematic
    theology, 12.
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