I will spare you the etymological introduction that you may be expecting. I have a different goal for this post. I want to persuade readers of the trustworthiness of theology. I want to drudge the discipline from the miry waters of subjectivity, and reinstate it as the queen of the sciences. I assume two things: 1) theology, in its purest form, concerns the God revealed in the Christian Scriptures; and 2) that the Christian Scriptures are trustworthy. Perhaps another post will have to explain why I make those assumptions.
Allow me to present readers with my grounds from the Bible for the legitimacy of theology.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God…we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:11-12, 16b)
18th century philosopher/theologian Jonathan Edwards asserted that the very thing purchased for Christians in the gospel scheme is the Holy Spirit. It is becoming a bit cliche to say that Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship; nonetheless, that is what’s entailed in this gospel scheme and in theology: we get the Spirit of God which enables us to know God. To be sure, theology has been diluted from its purest form ever since the beginning. Our ability to know God without risk of error lasted a mere 2 chapters in the Bible. From Genesis chapter 3 and on, humanity’s knowledge of God had been distorted by what theologians call the noetic effects of sin, ie. the degradation of the human intellect because of sin. Because of the pervasiveness and redundancy of intellectual error common to all humanity, humans lost the ability to know God rightly apart from the prophets and the Scriptures. That is, until God condescended to us in a manner that was understandable; namely, in the person of Jesus Christ. At the cross, Jesus purchased the means for his people to know God. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the New Testament was written.
The New Testament is not merely the recordings of the apostles’ experiences during a time of religious revival, as some would have you think. Rather, the inspiration of the New Testament is the vehicle through which the Spirit disclosed the thoughts of God to his people. Not only was the provision of the New Testament made, but God’s Spirit also dwells in every believer. The apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that “we have the mind of Christ”. While this doesn’t qualify us to write new Scripture like it did the apostles, it does qualify us to rightly understand what is said in Scripture.
If you are a Christian, I encourage you to resolve to diligently seek to know your God through the gracious means of Scripture; do theology boldly, knowing that the Spirit enables you to know the mind of God. But do it humbly, knowing that the noetic effects of sin remain, receive correction, and listen to the authorities which God has established to proclaim Him. If you are not a Christian, I encourage you to resolve to diligently seek to understand what is offered to you in Jesus Christ; namely, the ability to know the God of the universe and be known by him.