Intro to Theology

The following is the outline from a theology class offered at http://www.gccwilm.org.  The .pdf of the full notes is available here: Introduction to Theology Sunday School Class.

  • 1. What is Theology? 
    • A. Theology is biblical truth systematically developed.
      • 1. The word “Theology” comes from the Greek words “logos” (word) and “theos” (God).  Literally, it is words (i.e. teaching) about God.
      • 2. Theology is slightly different from doctrine.  “Doctrine” is a specific teaching on a subject.  Theology seeks to bring various doctrines together in an organized fashion.
      • 3. Systematic Theology is the sound teaching of the bible (doctrine) organized thematically rather than canonically.
    • B. Not all doctrines are equal in importance.
      • 1. All doctrines are important, but some are weightier than others. (Mt 23:23)
      • 2. By nature some doctrines are more important than other doctrines in the life of the church.  This does not mean that truth should not be pursued in every area.  It does, however, mean we can be unified at different levels even with people with whom we disagree. When someone holds a doctrine that we disagree with but doesn’t damn anyone to hell, we must disagree with Christian charity.
  • II. Why should we learn theology? 
    • A. Obedience
      • 1. The bible demands us to learn theology (Titus 1:9)
      • 2. Obedience in a specific circumstance requires that I know all the truths that apply to my situation.
    • B. Worship
      • 1. God has called us to worship him with every part of our being, including our minds. (Mt 22:37)
      • 2. If our theology is not biblical our worship will be in vain. (Mk 7:7)
      • 3. If theology is really “words about God” then the more we know about theology the more we know about God. Just knowing about God is not true worship, but we cannot worship if we don’t know. If we worship without any theology (i.e. teaching about God) is self-worship.
    • C. Discipleship
      • 1. A disciple is a “student learner” following Christ.  Discipleship is more than simply studying, but we cannot be effective in the “following” if we aren’t diligent in the studying. Apart from a true theology we will be following after something other than Christ. (1 Tim 4:6-8)
      • 2. We need doctrine to be mature disciples (1 Cor 14:20, Heb 6:1)
      • 3. We need doctrine to be humble disciples
      • 4. We need doctrine to be effective disciples (1 Pt 3:15)
      • 5. We need doctrine to be pure disciples (1 Tim 1:3, & 10)
  • III. How do we learn theology?
    • A. By looking to the bible first
      • 1.  We will develop our theology from the doctrines taught in the bible.  Our method will be Sola Scripture (scripture aloneI) because that is what God will hold responsible for. (Dt 29:29)
      • 2.  Doctrines based on human reasoning or personal preference will always become idols that lead to deaf, blind, and dumb people. (Mk 7:5-6)
      • 3.  We will not deal with Philosophy or Apologetics in this class.  Both of these disciplines can prove helpful in various ways, however the scope of this class will be limited to defining, and developing biblical teachings.
    • B. By looking to previous generations of the church for help
      • 1.  The bible commands us to pass on sound doctrine to the next generation of Christians, which implies that we should be looking to previous generation for help with our theology. (Jude 3 & 2 Tim 2:2)
      • 2.  When we look to previous generations of the church we are standing on the shoulders of giants grasping to better understand and define the principles they identified in the bible.
      • 3.  When we ignore previous generations of the church we not only ignore the bible’s command that doctrine be passed down, but we also engage in a kind of historical isolationism that acts like we are the only generation of Christians to ever think about the bible. (1 Cor 14:36)
    • C.  By cultivating a humble faith
      • 1.  Humble Faith is required because are hearts are deceitful and when left to their own devices will lead us astray. (Jeremiah 17:9)
      • 2.  Humble Faith is required because much of that we our studying is unseen by the human eye.  (Heb 11:1)  Engaging in theology requires that we approach it with a humble faith.  In Augustine’s words we must have a “fide quaerens intellectum” (faith seeking understanding).
      • 3.  Humble Faith is required because we must approach theology with the understanding that we are not the final authority.  Theology does not have to fit with our conception of reality.  We not are the final authority.  Ultimately our theology will be judged by God who will do so with his revealed word.  If we struggle to understand paradoxes like the Trinity, the hypostatic union, or eternity this does not mean that they are not true. We can not imagine to know the infinite with our finite minds.
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