Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash
The Big One
Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.
*Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with All Your Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997.
Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986.
Beckwith, Francis. Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.
Carson, D. A., ed. Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1998.
________. Postmodernizing the Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1998.
Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989.
Geisler, Norman. Systematic Theology: Volume One, Introduction, Bible. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2002.
Grenz, Stanley and John Franke, Beyond Foundationalism. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2001.
* Groothuis, Douglas. Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against The Challenges of Postmodernism. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
**Guiness, OS. Time for Truth: Living Free In A World Of Lies, Hype & Spin. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2000.
John Hannah, Our Legacy. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2001.
House, H. Wayne. Charts of Christian Theology & Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.
McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology, An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.
Noll, Mark. Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994.
*Sire, James. Habits of the Mind. Colorado Springs, CO: IVP, 2000.
**Stott, John. Your Mind Matters. Colorado Springs, CO: IVP, 1973.
*Read one of these.
**Read these two.
Today I read the introduction to The Mosaic of Christian Belief by Roger E. Olson, which arrived on our front porch today. The introduction is part of the assignment to complete session 1 of the Bible.org “The Theology Program” “Class Introduction” to the first course “Introduction to Theology”. My spouse has not read it yet. She has read the first chapter of Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology which I wrote about in the last post.
In the first session video, “Class Introduction” to the first course “Introduction to Theology” the lecturer makes the observation – if we look for classes where everything the teacher presents perfectly agrees with everything we already know and everything we feel passionately about, we will probably think the class is great and the teacher is great but we won’t learn anything.
I don’t think the rest of the book The Mosaic of Christian Belief will perfectly agree with everything I already know and everything I feel passionately about but, while reading the introduction, I commented to my spouse, “Wow, this guy is saying things I have been saying for years.” I do hope I learn something.
For years I have been saying many divisions in Christianity are one group’s OVERREACTION to another group’s error or the other group’s OVER EMPHASIS on some small point of secondary doctrine. Here’s how Roger E. Olson spells it out
…many Christian theologians…believe…the Roman Catholic Church over reacted to modernism in its ranks in the nineteenth century by making papal infallibility a dogma…Similarly, some Protestant groups have overreacted to the perceived threat of modernism by developing a doctrine of strict biblical inerrancy. Often such overreactions give rise to opposite overreactions.
Moving on, on page 12 I found a great sentence.
Too many Christians identify “authentic Christian belief” with one narrow slice of Christian thought.
Of course, this reminded me of my favorite quote which happens to be from a fiction book…
I found it again at last! Page 156 – 157 of My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells.
Dr. Dylan Foster is thinking to herself while searching through literature on snake lore.
“Then there was all the mystical stuff. Once again, the dearth of comparative religion in my theology training nearly skunked me. Four years of sod-busing in seminary had taught me exactly nothing more than what I already knew–in grander proportions, of course, and to near-microscopic levels of minutia. In the end, I got out of there with a solid hermeneutical method, an encyclopedic understanding of dispensational theology, and the ability to conjugate verbs and deconstruct participles in Greek and Hebrew–all notable skills–but without even passable knowledge of anything outside one extremely narrow strip of theological territory.”
“When it was all said and done, I’d spent four years and trainload of money to get indoctrinated, not educated. Lousy planning, if you ask me.”
On page 13 Olson laid out a definition of evangelical as understood in the United States today. If I drop where he repeats “evangelical” in his definition, I think I should show this definition to the Director for Missionary Discipleship in my Roman Catholic Diocese and I would get an agreement about this definition being what the Roman Catholic Church is finally moving to.
…evangelical…describe especially that form of (mostly) Protestant Christianity that…is generally conservative in theology, conversionist and evangelistic, biblicist, and focused on Jesus Christ as God incarnate, crucified Savior, risen Lord, and returning king…emphasis on the importance of a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” through an experience of conversion involving repentance and faith and a daily life of discipleship to Christ that involves prayer, Scripture reading and seeking by God’s help to emulate the Savior.
I guess the growth toward an evangelical emphasis in the Roman Catholic Church would fall into this “(mostly)” in the first line of this quote.
On page 18 I found two sentences which sum up a discussion of trends in most of the Christian church, particularly in North America, as Olson states. He wrote about these trends from the bottom half of page 17 almost all the way to the end of page 20.
What “feels good” an”provides comfort” is often the main criterion by which grassroots Christians decide what to believe and how to practice their spirituality. The church becomes a support group rather than the communal bearer of a tradition that values truth.
I am so sick of sentimentality!
While working with teenagers and their parents preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation, way too often I’ve listened to teens and their parents describe the total of their lived experience with Jesus Christ with something to the tune of “I am so glad He is there for me when I need him. He gives me such comfort.” This an example of a part of what Christian Smith, sociologist of religion, and the coauthor of the book Soul Searching called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
That’s fine but it shouldn’t be all there is. Unfortunately too often it is all there is. This is serious because we are at war and Jesus Christ is our Commander and Chief. He’s not just Savior. He is also Lord. He’s not at our beck and call. We are at His. He owns us, not the other way around. We have been bought with the price of His death on a cross.
There is more I’d like to comment about but I’ll hang it up for tonight.
If you click on the above article you will find it was written by a “data editor” in January of 2018. What brought it to my attention is US News and World Report trotted it out on April 26, 2020 on their Facebook page. Good Grief! Is there no REAL NEWS going on in the world right now?
I can almost believe the above headline which shows up in the tab when you bring up the article. But when you look at the article’s subtitle you can tell this is all hype.
“Most people think religion is the root of the world’s problems, according to a recent international study.”
The subtitle went from “experts say” and “tribal divisions caused by religion” to “most people” and “religion” in general.
I can almost buy “tribal divisions created by religion is harmful in global conflicts” but not “most harmful.” I’d say GREED is the most harmful in global conflict. But I certainly cannot agree “religion is the root cause of the world’s problems.” The Bible says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (NKJV).
Who are the experts in the article? Well, one is a professor of psychology at Normandale Community College. Yes, Normandale Community College, (sarcasm mode on) which of course is internationally well known as a top tier research “university” (sarcasm mode off).
Another expert in the article is an outspoken atheist, Sam Harris, (sarcasm mode on, again) who we should listen to because of his unbiased expert, scientific research and analysis (sarcasm mode off). Sam Harris calls himself a neuroscientist and philosopher. I don’t understand how neuroscience and philosophy make him an expert on religion and global conflict.
The other “experts” referred to frequently as “experts say” and “experts agree” are not named.
“In a recent Best Countries survey of more than 21,000 from all regions of the world, the majority of respondents identified religion as the ‘primary source of most global conflict today.’” I don’t know for sure but I suspect a “Best Countries survey” is not published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.
“And more than 80 percent of those surveyed said that religious beliefs guide a person’s behavior.”
When we look at the data, such as it is, we find what is touted as “most people” and “a majority of people” turns out to be 30% of those surveyed. Since when is 30% a majority? 80% say religious beliefs guide a person’s behavior. I certainly hope so. It’s not much of a religion if it doesn’t guide your behavior! It makes me wonder about the other 20% who think religion doesn’t guide a person’s behavior.
The question asked turns out to be, “What’s the primary cause of most global conflict today?” 30% answered “religious beliefs.” How does 30% choosing religious belief as the primary cause of most global conflict evolve into “most people think religion is the root of the world’s problems?” If you add the next two selections together, “Power = 23% ” and “Economy = 21%” you still have only 44% which is 1) more than the 30% for “Religious Beliefs” and 2) still not a “majority.” No one category comes close to a “majority” or “most people”.
Deidre McPhillips, “Data Editor”, might seem to find math a bit challenging. Let’s see. Isn’t a “majority” or “most” usually considered anything over 50%, and isn’t 50% greater than (>) 30%?
In my perception the claim this article seems to unsuccessfully try to make is religion, in general, causes people to be violent which is “the primary cause of most global conflict today.” Well, my religion teaches me to “turn to the other cheek” return good for evil, pray for those who persecute me or say all kinds of evil against me falsely, love my neighbor as myself, and as much as possible live at peace with everyone. I could go on and quote verse after verse but you can read the Bible for yourself.
Sure, you can read violent accounts in the Old Testament and in the Revelation to St. John the Evangelist where loads of people get killed, but my religion does not instruct me personally to do anything violent. My religion tells me to put on the whole armor of God and take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, but the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God will never physically harm anyone. The reason I’m told to put on the whole armor of God is not to be violent against any human being. It’s not even to defend myself against any human being. It is to enable me to stand against the schemes of the evil one. extinguish all his flaming arrows, and be able to stand my ground on the evil day.
Today I read chapter 1 of Systematic Theology by Dr. Wayne Grudem. I also watched a short video introduction presented by the author. My spouse and I plan to work our way through the set of theology courses together offered through Bible.org; At least it’s the plan for now.
The end of last week I watched “Class Introduction” to the first course “Introduction to Theology” of “The Theology Program”. I watched it again with my spouse. It was good enough to sit through twice, or maybe I’m just interested enough in theology so to me it was sufficiently good enough to watch twice.
This should be interesting. we have had a taste of just about every flavor of theology listed in the book, including Roman Catholicism, of which we’ve had quite a bit more than a taste. I have even sampled from theological schools I am not sure are even considered in this book or in the course. There’s another book on the way, Mosaic of Christian Beliefs by Roger Olson, which has a better chance of mentioning some of these other theological schools.
Over ten years ago my spouse asked me what advanced degree I would get if I could. I thought about theology but chose instead to go for the sociology of religion. For various reasons I did not complete an advanced degree in sociology. Now I wonder if I should have pursued theology.
Even though I have a petty good idea of things about which I will disagree with Dr. Grudem, I’ll not mention them until I reach those points in his book. So far he’s introduced himself as a person who takes a “traditional Reformed position with regard to questions of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, the extent of the atonement, and the question of predestination.” He’s going to have a tough time persuading me buy into any of those traditional reformed positions, as I understand them now.
I’m on the fence about many positions of doctrine. I’ve read the Bible enough and heard interpretations from many theological positions. The books we’re reading for these courses and the course itself should cause us to think through these positions again. I think we could call ourselves eclectic Christians. We’ve sampled too many flavors of theology to say, “We only think our favorite flavor is the one true flavor and there is no merit in any other flavor.” I like chocolate almond fudge ice cream but it doesn’t mean I think rocky road is not valid ice cream. Even maple nut has its place.
Grudem lists sections in other evangelical systematic theology books (and two Roman Catholic) at the end of each chapter which address the topics covered in the chapter. He organized them in seven groups (plus the two Roman Catholic): Anglican (Episcopalian), Arminian (Wesleyan or Methodist), Baptist, Dispensational, Lutheran, Reformed (or Presbyterian), and Renewal (or charismatic/Penticostal). My spouse and I are all over this map and then some. I’ve attended Episcopalian services, I think I’m closest to Arminian theology, and my spouse was raised Methodist. We’ve attended plenty of Baptist congregations and been members of another denomination indistinguishable from Baptist to an outsider (unless they read the sign outside). I don’t know how much Dispensational theology we’ve absorbed (We wouldn’t be surprised if there is a rapture, but we know Dispensational theology has more to it). I was baptized Lutheran and I have a Lutheran/Catholic view of the sacraments, particularly baptism. I grew up attending a Reformed denomination, and we harbor strong Pentecostal sentiments. I also have been exposed to plenty of Adventist thought. We also attended a Greek Orthodox church for several months and went through their “what our church is all about” classes.
Grudem’s book was published about the same time as the Catechism of the Catholic Church came out in English, so it is not one of the two Roman Catholic resources he listed.
Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash
I’m sure every book I’ve read, and even some I haven’t, probably have shaped me in some way. I list these particular books here because I can somewhat articulate HOW these have shaped me.
The Big One
The Bible God
The Late Great Planet Earth Hal Lindsey
Forming Intentional Disciples Sherry Weddell
The Street Lawyer John Grisham
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
The Eye of the World Robert Jordan
Essentialism Greg McKeow (read 07/2019)
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey
How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie
My Soul to Keep Melanie Wells
How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture Francis Schaeffer
More? Probably. Be patient, I’m thinking.
I have found a free online theology program! Here is the link.
So who wants to join me?
The way some of us got started studying the Bible wasn’t by just starting to read. We looked up the verses we were shown when we were introduced to God’s plan of salvation and highlighted them in our Bibles. So now we had “planted” some familiar “faces” in various places in our Bible.
As we became familiar with more verses we would highlight those. Then we started reading those verses in context which led us to more verses we had heard as we started paying attention to good Bible teaching. We would highlight those.
Eventually we got to the point where we would highlight verses and whole passages in various colors. We would make little notations next to verses and passages. Maybe we would put a little “w” for “warning”, “p” for “promise”, “c” for “command” next to verses fitting those descriptions.
Using this method we would find ourselves becoming familiar with the Bible by slowly branching out from the plan of salvation, which is the heart of the Bible, after all, right?
Let’s get started.
God loves the world, God loves each one of us.
God loved the world so much he gave his one of a kind, unique Son, so whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
God wants the best for us.
The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I came so they may have life, and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
Since we are not perfect, we are separated from God, who is perfect.
All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. – Romans 3:23
We cannot make ourselves perfect. We’ve been tainted by sin and there’s nothing we can do on our own to change it. We are all imperfect and we can never become perfect on your own.
The word for sin in the ancient language means “missing the mark”. It’s not only when we do things against God’s rules, it’s also we don’t do the things we should do PERFECTLY. To be perfect we would need to hit the bulls-eye every time.
And there is another more fundamental problem. The target is perfection and we are so far away from perfection, on our own, we actually don’t even have access to the target!
If we do not see ourselves as sinners, we are in denial. We are not seeing ourselves as we really are. We need to reach the point of admitting “I am a sinner. I am powerless over sin, and my life is unmanageable because of my sin. I know there is no way through my own effort I can get right.”
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – I John 1:8, 10
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; – Isaiah 53:6
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched person I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? – Romans 7:15-24
When God’s Spirit caused the first followers of Jesus to understand what Jesus really made happen through his death and resurrection, they began to preach “He is risen!” and there is no other named person under heaven through which we must be saved from what we deserve because we are not perfect.
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12
But God shows is love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8