“We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine — ‘dull dogma,’ as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man — and the dogma is the drama. . . . This is the dogma we find so dull — this terrifying drama which God is the victim and the hero. If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore — on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.” (Dorothy Sayers)
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We’ve been discussing EIGHT STEPS to a strong theological method, developed by my friend, Dr. Bob Ferris. This is our LAST INSTALLMENT on this topic — so cheer up! We’ll tackle other topics after this entry!
I am thoroughly enjoying the course I am teaching this semester at Columbia International University Seminary and School of Ministry (we have to wear XXL shirts to get all our embroidered logo on!). The course, “Theological Methods and Issues,” is providing a great opportunity for my high-quality students to do in-depth research on a wide variety of topics.
Today we heard papers on the topics of the Great Commission, Spiritual Growth, and the Christian’s Response to Birth Control!
In our previous blogs, we’ve noticed the following seven steps in a strong theological method:
The FIFTH STEP in our theological method involves EXAMINING THE BIBLICAL DATA. If “doing theology” does not fundamentally rest on examining the Scriptures carefully, then we are only engaged in human speculation and conjecture. And there is enough of that already!
The SEVENTH STEP in our theological method is CONFRONTING SPECIAL PROBLEMS.This step is where we ask if there are cultural or cultic challenges to the Evangelical position which we must address. We need to be aware of not only our own culture, but also the culture to which we are ministering. For example, a research paper on “The Biblical Picture of Marriage” would need to take into account cultural views in an African context (if the paper is meant for that particular audience). Historical and contemporary heresies are “special problems,” for heresy is often described as “a new, fresh look at the Bible!”
Our final step is COMMUNICATING THE TRUTH IN CULTURAL CONTEXT.The fact is that the theologian’s task is not just understanding, but obedience. Jesus said in John 7:17- “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” There is a direct connection between choosing to do God’s will and understanding truth!
Dorothy Sayers once said, “It is not true at all that dogma is hopelessly irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man. What is true is that ministers of the Christian religion often assert that it is, present it for consideration as though it were, and, in fact, by their faulty exposition of it make it so.”
What difference does this doctrine or this theological truth make? Here the theologian needs some insight into human nature so that he or she can communicate the ethical ramifications of the truth discovered.
As the following cartoon illustrates, we are not to cave into our contemporary cultural worldview, adapting God’s Word to men. We are to adapt men to God’s Word!
1. What theological topic would you like to tackle, seeking to implement these eight steps?
2. How can I be of help to you in that process?
I can understand people viscerally reacting to what the Bible says. I can’t understand people who smile and merely pretend to believe it.
Seeking to win lost people to Christ is good for me. It causes me to examine my own heart, to see if I really believe what I say I believe, to come to terms with the difference between my opinion and what the Bible really says.
Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” The Hebrew words rendered fool in the book of Psalms denote one who is morally deficient. Morally deficient. That’s a nice way of saying my works aren’t good enough. My sacrifices aren’t good enough. And that’s just flat-out offensive!
This kind of in-your-face honesty from the Bible is irritating to many.
If the standard is other people, we might be ahead of some, but certainly behind others. But what if the standard is a thoroughly holy, perfectly righteous Creator of the universe who is allergic to sin?
And that’s where the unique, but highly offensive message of the Cross comes in. Christianity teaches that we needed someone who was perfect to take our place and bear our punishment so God could righteously forgive us. It involved a cruel Roman cross which led to a horrific way to die (crucifixion) and a deep, deep truth that God’s Son became the sin sacrifice for us. For me. For you.
Dorothy Sayers put it this way: “It is the dogma that is the drama–not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death–but the terrifying assertion that the same God Who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.” Have you believed this message?
Discussion Question: Why are Christians surprised when those who do not yet believe get mad at the Christian message?