The Science of Theology

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Developing a Systematic Messianic Theology
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An Introduction to the
Science of Theology

When people find out that I am a theologian, they get all kinds of strange ideas. Then when I tell them that they are also a theologian, they really get confused. Let me see if I can clarify the concept a bit.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “theology” as “the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially the study of God and God’s relation to the world; a system of religious beliefs or ideas.”

In its simplest expression, “theology” is simply “what we think about God” and a “theologian” is “a person who thinks about God.” So, surprise! If you spend much time thinking about God … you are a theologian!

But I would hope that you are not satisfied to be “just a theologian” — just someone who thinks about God. My hope for you would be that you would desire to become “a theological scientist.” Now there are “professional” and “amateur” theological scientists just as there are “professional” and “amateur” astronomers or “professional” and “amateur” geologists. The difference between “professional” and “amateur” is generally considered to be whether or not one earns their livlihood from that particular activity.

As I define it, a theologian is anyone who thinks about God. Just about everybody thinks about God from time to time. Even an athiest has to think about God in order to arrive at the opinion that He does not exist.

To my way of thinking, a “theological scientist” is someone who approaches their consideration of God carefully and systematically — carefully examining what the Scriptures say and systematically summarizing their teachings into concise statements of “doctrine” that can then be neatly placed into the various categories established by previous theological scientists. This is true whether or not the theologian commits his/her beliefs to writing.

Doctrine” is defined as “a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true,” or “something that is taught.” So when you study the Scriptures (“to present yourself to God as someone worthy of His approval” — 2Tim. 2:15) to find out what God has said on any given subject, whatever you accept and believe about that subject becomes your theology; when you express those thoughts to another they become your doctrine. I generally use the terms pretty much interchangeably, because what we tell others about God is usually what we believe about God.

As with all the sciences, theology has its own set of “rules” and pre-defined ideas that have been established, and that provide the boundaries within which the theological scientist is expected to practice that science. As evolution is to the biologist and the so-called (but non-existent in actuality) “Geologic Column” is to the paleontologist, there are certain false assumptions that the theological scientist is trained to simply accept without much thought. These assumptions have been accepted for so long that they simply are no longer questioned by those in the field, and the very act of questioning them would be tantamount to professional suicide.

However, any really good scientist (in any field) does not accept those assumptions blindly, but rather questions their vailidity, tests them, clings to those assumptions which can be proven to be true, discards the assumptions that are demonstrated to be false, and reserves judgment but approaches carefully those assumptions that can be neither proved nor disproved (1Thess. 5:21). He/she will also create his/her own assumptions upon which to systematically move forward in the study of God through His revealed word, “Order on order, order on order, Line on line, line on line, A little here, a little there.” (Isa. 28:10) Young's Literal Translation translates the word “order” as “rule” and the King James Version translates it as “precept.”

The Science of Theology, like any other science, must be based on some basic rules and precepts (or principles) to guide the process. For example, the “multiplication tables” are part of the precepts of mathematics; they are accepted as accurate without having to be repeatedly proved. The basic rules and precepts/principles are like the foundation of a building. If the foundation is sound, and the construction is solid, the building will withstand the ravages of time and weather. But if the foundation is weak or crumbly, the entire structure will soon fall in on itself.

The Master was keenly aware of this principle and relayed it to His disciples in the following parable:

“So, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on bedrock. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the winds blew and beat against that house, but it didn't collapse, because its foundation was on rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the rivers flooded, the wind blew and beat against that house, and it collapsed — and its collapse was horrendous!” When Yeshua had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at the way he taught, for he was not instructing them like their Torah-teachers but as one who had authority himself. (Matt. 7:24-29)

As we build the foundation for our theology we must be extremely careful, for if our foundation is flawed, then our entire theology is at extreme risk.

Of course charismatic theological scientists have a different set of rules than non-charismatics, liberal theological scientists have a different set of rules than conservatives, Messianic theological scientists have a different set of rules than Catholics and Protestants, and the list goes on. My formal training could best be described as “non-charismatic, conservative, evangelical, and dispensational,” and so the “rules” of my theology naturally reflected that orientation. Since I have been involved in the Messianic Restoration Movement, I have had to severely test those principles that I learned in Seminary and, quite frankly, many of them proved to be weak and untrustworthy, and had to be replaced.

In the next few pages I hope to introduce you to some of the rules or principles that I have personally found essential to make sure that my interpretation and application of the truths that I find in Scripture are consistent; that my “theology” is solid and does not contradict itself.

Session 1. First Things First
Why should Believers need to study Bible doctrines?
 
Session 2. Principles of Bible Interpretation
Correct interpretation of the Scriptures requires use of the correct “tools.”
 
Session 3. Counterfeit Religion and the Last Days
Yeshua said there’d be days like this!
 
Session 4. Getting Down to Basics
The bare essentials of Biblical faith
 
Session 5: The Absolute Essentials of Messianic Doctrine
What are the five “absolutes” — those things which one must positively believe to be “saved”?
 
Session 6: A Brief Summary of Biblical Doctrine
A short, concise summary of each of the major “divisions” of our Messianic Systematic Theology

Page revised on Sunday, 28 August 2016

Page last updated on Sunday, 28 August 2016 07:46 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes after May 3, 2015 are identified as "Revisions”)