Lessons Learned from My Work on Christian Theology

I am close to finishing my book on Christian theology that I have been writing for the past several months. I would like to share with you some of the lessons I have learned from my research:

1. To Be Ignorant of the Old Testament Is to Be Ignorant of God.

The vast majority of biblical references to who God is are in the Old Testament, not the New. If the essence of eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3), then to avoid preaching on the Old Testament is to neglect preaching on who God is and how one comes to know God. The authors of the New Testament assume you know something about the storyline of the Torah. It is impossible to fully grasp the meaning of the New Testament until we understand the Old.

2. The Old Testament Is Just as Important for the Study of Christian Theology as the New.

A theology which neglects the Old Testament and builds doctrine primarily based on the books of John and Romans is going to be extremely unbalanced. Antinomianism in all its forms functionally decanonizes the Old Testament and makes it irrelevant for the study of Christian ethics. If we do not take into consideration the entire canon of Scripture, we will have an incomplete picture of who God is.

3. The Bible Has as Much to Say on the Wrath of God as the Love of God.

After compiling and examining all the passages in Scripture which speak on God’s wrath or hell, I literally felt sick to my stomach. God’s hatred of sin and the evil people who commit it is a dominant theme in Scripture. We must emphasize equally God’s just wrath against sinners and his love for the lost.

4. Exegesis Is Really Hard Work.

I always knew that biblical interpretation takes time and effort. But some passages of Scripture require intense examination and cross-referencing to fully understand. Systematic theology must never be separated from biblical studies. A theology divorced from exegesis is not a theology based on the Bible.

5. Concordance Theology Is Christian Theology.

Since all Christian theology is derived from Scripture, we must take all of Scripture into consideration when summarizing the doctrines of the Bible. I never would have been able to write this book without Bibleworks or another concordance program like it. Each of us has a finite memory that cannot simultaneously meditate on every verse related to the area we are studying. You can’t even remember where you parked your car last week. If you don’t believe concordance theology is essential to arriving at the truth of Scripture, then you need a thicker concordance to take more of Scripture into consideration.

6. A Great Portion of the American Church Is Biblically Illiterate Based on How Much of the Bible They Do Not Believe in or Put into Practice.

When people believe in doctrines not taught in the Bible, it is more often the case that they do so because they are not familiar enough with the Bible’s teaching on the subject than willful self-deception. Hosea writes, “My people perish for lack of knowledge” (4:6). Mocking the idea that all we have to do to arrive at the truth is open a concordance and study all the verses related to the subject we are investigating as an amateur way of doing theology keeps you and others from embracing the truth.

7. The Influence of Human Tradition Is More Powerful than I Thought.

What we really believe is based on the hermeneutical grid we inherit from our parents and teachers with which we interpret the Bible. As Richard Wurmbrand once said, “We are put in a mold from earliest youth and taught only the arguments that favor our parents’ religion. Yet we are convinced that we have thought it all out for ourselves.”

8. It Takes Hard Work to Come to a Wrong Conclusion in Christian Theology.

You have to overlook a large number of different passages of Scripture throughout the Bible to believe in something that is contrary to it. Every doctrine of Scripture is taught in at least more than one place. That means in order to come to an incorrect conclusion in matters of Christian theology, you must misinterpret multiple passages of Scripture which teach the correct doctrine you do not believe in. And you must also misinterpret Scripture to find proof texts for what you believe in to support the opposite doctrine which is not actually taught in Scripture.

9. What You Really Believe Is Demonstrated by Your Actions.

A man believes no more than he does. A person who believes in hell and does not share the gospel is functionally equivalent to someone who does not believe in hell and lives consistently with his disbelief in it. The end result is the same regardless of what a person claims to believe. The person who says he is pro-life personally but believes the decision about abortion should be left up to the mother instead of the government votes the same way a person does who says he is pro-choice. There is no practical difference either way when it comes to the living out of our lives which is the basis upon which we are judged in Matthew 25. That is one of the reasons why Christian doctrine is taught through narrative passages of Scripture so that we can see how the truth is to be lived out.

10. The Truth Is Often More Nuanced than We Are Comfortable With.

We want everything to be in categories of black or white. But the truth is often complex and requires us to take into consideration passages of Scripture which may at first seem to contradict one another. It is only when we view things from God’s perspective and allow him to define the boundaries of right and wrong that we are able to see clearly. See my articles on lying and self-defense for an illustration of this principle.

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