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:
is STATING THE TOPIC. We are to clearly identify the underlying issue, then state the topic which we are addressing.
STEP #2 involves FRAMING THE QUESTION which leads to a process of inquiry.
The THIRD STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is IDENTIFYING THE IMPORTANCE.
The FOURTH STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is SURVEYING THE HISTORICAL OPTIONS. Because the Holy Spirit too has a history, we can benefit from the work of theologians of past generations.
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!
Our SIXTH STEP involves FORMULATING AN EVANGELICAL POSITION. This basically means that we will go beyond mere biblical exegesis in order to grasp the whole counsel of God on the topic at hand.
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?