Wednesday, April 30, 2008

T4G Musings, Part 2

Ligon Duncan spoke during the first session on Systematic Theology and its relationship to pastoral ministry. Duncan reminded us that in our culture today doctrine, theology, and Systematic Theology are under duress. Much to the disagreement of post-moderns, Systematic Theology is important. Contra the Emergents, he argued that the Bible is not a story narrative. The story line of redemption has to be pieced together with Biblical and Systematic Theology.

Post-modernism's notions of meaningless language are detrimental to theology. The idea that language is not inherently understandable (that it is merely a social-linguistic byproduct, ala Richard Rorty and his Philosophy and Mirror of Nature) comes from medieval gnosticism and post-Kantian philosophy and is entirely abiblical. Rather, he points out, we see from Genesis 2 that language is inherently understandable. And because it is understandable, we can know its referents--we can know God Himself, because He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Duncan did a brilliant job of showing that a personal Systematic Theology is unavoidable, even for a post-modern. Since a personal Systematic Theology is simply topical--what do you believe about something in particular, we all believe something even if it is to say that "I don't believe anything about that topic." If someone comes up to you and asks, "What do you believe about hell?" you won't tell them a story. You'll say simply what you believe to be true. This is what Systematic Theology does, and as Duncan points out, what Christ said on the road to Emmaus. When I had thought of this passage before, I honestly thought more along the lines of Biblical Theology (a storyline of redemption through the Bible pointing to Christ), but he observes that Christ told them all "the things" concerning Himself.

Finally, Lig' brought it down to what doctrine is important for. Romans 11:32-36--it's important for God's glory. John 15:12-16--it's important for our assurance. Ephesians 5:25--it's important for marriages (and note the ethical implication that is derived from the doctrine of atonement!). Philippians 3:1--it's important for your joy! Theology is for all of life, not just the classroom or the sanctuary.

Listen to the full sermon here.

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