When we discuss theology, the study of the things of God, is it enough to know true things about God, true things about humanity, true things about the Temple and true things about other Bible doctrines? Augustus Strong answers:
Science is not only the observing, recording, verifying, and formulating of objective facts; it is also the recognition and explication of the relations between these facts, and the synthesis of both the facts and the rational principles which unite them in a comprehensive, rightly proportioned, and organic system.
- Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology
What does that mean?
Theology isn’t just about the facts of biblical doctrine. Theology needs to be about the relationships between truths:
- What do the doctrines mean together?
- How do the doctrines interact with one another?
- What do the doctrines build to?
Scattered bricks and timbers are not a house; severed arms, legs, heads and trunks from a dissecting room are not living men; and facts alone do not constitute science. Science = facts + relations;
Have you built a library of disconnected facts about God, the Bible and salvation? Or have you built a house from the bricks and timbers of your theology? Have you seen the living, breathing truth from the arms, legs head and torso of the doctrines of Scripture?
The relationship – the house or living body in Strong’s analogy – is God’s grand design to redeem his enemies into his family so that they might glorify and enjoy him forever.
If you know a doctrine but can’t explain how it connects to the Bible’s chief message of redemption and reconciliation, you don’t know that doctrine.
Without that framework, theology is just a pile of bricks and timber.
Doctrine is not enough.
The recent controversy over the PC USA voting the contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone” isn’t surprising. A quick summary from Timothy George:
The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song to exclude from its new hymnal the much-loved song “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. The Committee wanted to include this song because it is being sung in many churches, Presbyterian and otherwise, but they could not abide this line from the third stanza: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.” For this they wanted to substitute: “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the hymn insisted on the original wording, and the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal.
The Bottom Line: They want to change “the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the love of God was magnified” because they find the idea of God the Father pouring out wrath for sin on God the Son objectionable.
On one hand, the news that a liberal Protestant denomination continues to act in a liberal way is not at all a shock and is just as newsworthy as the headline, “Pope found to be Catholic.”
On the other hand, it is a good moment for reflection:
- Why did Jesus need to die?
- Why did Jesus need to die on the cross?
Interestingly enough, the PC USA agrees with theological conservatives on the answer to the first question. It’s the second question, however, that finds us light years apart. And more importantly, calls into question the love of God. Continue reading
I’m amazed when I read narrow views of the atonement. Some people say the Father poured out his wrath on sin only. Others say the Son gave his life in an offering of love only. Still others see a good example only, or a political statement only, or something else only.
Most people hold to only one view of the atonement.
The different views of the atonement – so far as they are orthodox – are not mutually exclusive. They all have scriptural support. They all communicate to us something about God. They exist together.
How do I know this? Scripture clearly shows us. Let’s look at the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. Continue reading
The cross wasn’t Plan B. It wasn’t God’s attempt to fix a plan spiraling out of control:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
In fact, God shouted his plan – to rescue his people at a tremendous price – from the very beginning. Let’s look to some of the major signs and symbols God gave along the way pointing to the cross of Christ: Continue reading
This article, as part of my sabbatical, is a reminder of content you may have missed in 2012.
In gospel-centered circles we often say that redemption precedes command. Look at the Ten Commandments – they begin with the words, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex 20:2) Everywhere we see God give us commands, it’s on the foundation of what he’s already done for us.
Redemption doesn’t just precede command. Redemption precedes even the curse.
But it doesn’t stop there. In Even The Curse Points to the Gospel I pointed out that redemption is bound up in the curse itself! I hope this makes you think about how merciful our God is.
Do you want to see Jesus in the whole Bible?
Maybe the resurgence of gospel-centered preaching has hit you like it’s hit me. You are bursting with excitement to see Jesus in every page of the Bible.
Genesis is full of symbols pointing to Christ. Great. Exodus has some too. So far, so good. Most of Leviticus points to Jesus as soon as you read Hebrews. Fantastic!
But what about Numbers? Not so much… What about Joshua and Judges? Maybe a few… What about all the genealogies? Not to mention passages without a hero. What about the book of James?
Suddenly the Bible doesn’t look like it’s full of Jesus.
How do you apply gospel-centered connections?
As I prepared a sermon to fill in for my pastor I recognized how James 1:2-4 points to Jesus. I rushed to show my wife, expecting her to faint with excitement.
Her answer stopped me cold. Who cares if we connect a passage to the cross if that connection doesn’t help us apply the intent of that passage to our lives?
Finding the answers
For the past year I’ve scoured every resource I could find on seeing Christ everywhere in the Bible. I’ve listened to seminary lectures, read books and journals and scraped for insights everywhere I could.
And I wrote it all down.
I originally wanted a simple document I could refer back to when I studied the Bible on my own, prepared Bible studies or wrote sermons. What I ended with was an 8,000 word e-book full of references to lectures, books and interviews that covers almost every biblical genre.
Why I’m giving this away
Several people have asked me why I’m not trying to sell this book. There are two reasons: Continue reading
A few months ago I discussed why penal substitution is the primary achievement of the cross. (See also what Jesus didn’t die for.)
We often (correctly) say that NT saints are saved through their faith in what the Messiah did and OT saints were saved through their faith in what the Messiah would do. I’m wondering when the Old Testament saints were responsible to put their faith in the Messiah save them specifically by dying on their behalf, taking God’s just wrath against them on himself.
In reverse chronological order, here are some major OT passages that point towards Jesus taking our punishment so we could be shown mercy: Continue reading