Christians may be the last best hope for western civilization.
My wife and I share a love of a particular bad movie–Idiocracy. It is about two people who wake up in a future in which everyone is dumb. When we see something on the news that is particularly stupid we look at each other and say, “Idiocracy!”
Citizens of western civilization are quickly losing their ability to focus and think. We are not just entertaining ourselves to death, we are distracting ourselves to death.
God expects His followers to “meditate” on His Words and His ways. In other words, He expects us to be people who can focus and think! We need to do this and to teach others to do it as well. When we meditate on His word and His ways, we are studying theology. The question is whether we are doing it well!
An important tool to make sure we are doing it well is to use a systematic theology. For most people, I recommend Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan 1996). It is BIG but it is not a difficult read. One can (and should) read a chapter a week for a year or so.
But is it just to save western civilization? Nope, we need to save ourselves and the church as well.
We should study theology in order to be obedient. Jesus stated: “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20). As we will see over the coming weeks, this doesn’t just mean the red-letter words of Jesus, it means ALL of Scripture for Jesus inspired it and preserved it (stay tuned for the evidence).
We should also study theology to help us overcome our wrong ideas. Wayne Grudem writes, “If there were no sin in our hearts, we could read the Bible from cover to cover and, although we would not immediately learn everything in the Bible, we would most likely learn only true things about God and his creation. Every time we read it we would learn more true things and we would not rebel or refuse to accept anything we found written there. But with sin in our hearts we retain some rebelliousness against God. At various points there are—for all of us—biblical teachings which for one reason or another we do not want to accept. The study of systematic theology is of help in overcoming those rebellious ideas.”
Grudem also points out, “Studying systematic theology will help us grow as Christians. The more we know about God, about his Word, about his relationships to the world and mankind, the better we will trust him, the more fully we will praise him, and the more readily we will obey him. Studying systematic theology rightly will make us more mature Christians. If it does not do this, we are not studying it in the way God intends.
In fact, the Bible often connects sound doctrine with maturity in Christian living: Paul speaks of “the teaching which accords with godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3) and says that his work as an apostle is “to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness” (Titus 1:1). By contrast, he indicates that all kinds of disobedience and immorality are “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10).
Studying systematic theology also helps us to be able to make better decisions later on new questions of doctrine that may arise. We cannot know what new doctrinal controversies will arise in the churches in which we will live and minister ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, if the Lord does not return before then. These new doctrinal controversies will sometimes include questions that no one has faced very carefully before. Christians will be asking, “What does the whole Bible say about this subject?”
For example, two recent doctrinal controversies are (1) the debate over “open theism”(2) The New Perspective on Paul and (3) Rob Bell’s “qualified” universalism. Knowing theology helps us to recognize false teaching and prevent them from infecting the church and we will discuss each of these controversies as we work through the following topics:
Part 1: The Doctrine of the Word of God
Part 2: The Doctrine of God
Part 3: The Doctrine of Man
Part 4: The Doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit
Part 5: The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption
Part 6: The Doctrine of the Church
Part 7: The Doctrine of the Future
How to study theology? (1) Prayerfully (Psalm 119:18); (2) Humbly (1 Peter 5:5); (3) Reasonably (Romans 12:2); (4) with help from others (1 Cor. 12:28); (5) holistically by culling all relevant passages from Scripture; and (6) with praise (Psalm 139:17).
If we refuse to study systematic theology, the church will lose its way (and many have), we won’t grow and we won’t know how to make disciples.
Oh, and western civilization depends on it!
So tune back every Sunday.