Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Relationship between Christianity and Culture

 


According to J. Gresham  Machen, one of the greatest problems that has agitated the Church is the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity.  He defines Christianity as a way of life that is founded upon doctrines which is considered as objectively true. Culture is defined as those intellectual forces in the world that are hostile to the claims of Christ and these make it problematic for Christians living in a pagan culture. Most of the time Christians are unprepared to face this challenge since our education system keeps religion and culture as far apart as possible and no question of joining them together is allowed to arise. In the study of philosophy, religion is kept at the background while on Sunday the sermons do not encourage thoughtful reflection. The scientific spirit seems like it is incompatible with the old spirit of simple faith.  So it comes down to the problem of the relationship between knowledge and spirituality.  It is portrayed as if culture and Christianity are incompatible or as if they are in conflict with each other.

three possible solutions

The three possible solutions to the problem discussed by Machen are:

  1. Christianity should be subordinated to the culture. The Christians should resolve to bend Christian truth claims so that it will conform to the claims made by modern thought. In that way Christian truth claims will always be below culture and will be altered as needed. When new inventions or theories come out, we should give them more weight than Scripture. It means that we remove the supernatural in Christianity and make it merely natural. This resulted in the destruction of true Christianity.
  2. Give religion the clear field so that it seeks to destroy the culture. We should view world as evil and it must be a matter of indifference to a Christian. This solution will result in a person withdrawing from the things of the world which was the way fundamentalists solved this issue. This will result in culture being given an upper hand implicitly.
  3. Instead of destroying the arts and science or being indifferent to them, we should cultivate them with enthusiasm but at the same time consecrate them to the service of our God. We should go ahead joyfully and enthusiastically to make the world subject to God. Christianity can be given the upper hand explicitly by engaging in culture and then sifting the good and rejecting the bad.

dealing with extra-biblical truth claims

Some theologians affirm that all truth is God’s truth. When extra-biblical truth claims are made, it is important to distinguish between God’s truth and Satan’s error. It is also important that we interact with these truth claims without undermining the principle of sola scriptura. I have seen many claims like animal signs of the Holy Spirit, which they claim to be biblical while we see that there is no support for such things in the Scriptures. One place to validate all claims is the Bible, and we should make sure that all claims conform to it.  All claims should be validated before being embraced.

There are various ways in which truth claims can be validated. I think at first we should use God-given wisdom to discern the truth. The church is a good place to validate such claims and it can be safely discussed and challenged there. We should be patient and wait for the result or fruit which is produced as a result of any truth claims. Once I encountered a challenge in which a person started teaching free grace and taught people that God has no problem with sin. He went to the extreme where people started believing that they can do anything they want in life and God is not concerned with sinfulness in people. This resulted in one woman destroying her spiritual life and having to go to a physiatrist.  We can clearly understand that any truth claims which have a Biblical basis should not result in this kind of problem. All truths which are true should lead people closer to God and liberty. So we can understand that patience and discerning the truth claims is important before accepting it as God’s truth. We should never forget that Satan can also deceive people and try to present deceptions as truth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Theology and Doctrine

Theology

Theology is the study of divine things or religious truth. It is the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe. It can also be defined as a study about God which is done in a systematic and careful way. Systematic theology involves collecting and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that what we should believe about each topic is clear.[1]

Doctrine

Doctrine is a body or system of teachings relating to a particular subject. It could be a particular principle, position, or policy taught or advocated by a religion or government. In biblical terms, a doctrine is what the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic. Doctrine is the result of doing systematic theology in regard to one particular topic.[2] Doctrine can be very broad or very narrow.

Object of Theology

The object of theology is that it should both be objective and subjective. Many people think that studying theology has to do with only intellect of a person and a person does theology only with mind. Theology as sapientia (wisdom) and as scientia (knowledge) is important. Knowing about God or adding knowledge is not enough when we do theology. Knowing God personally should be the direction in which we are moving as a result of studying theology. Doing theology is important to communicating Christian beliefs and faith to the outside world. Most important, theology should help as to know God and love him. Understanding the nature of God is important for a believer and doing theology helps in doing this. Theology is also important for the church to flourish as a church[3].  For the church to survive, it is important that its theology be correct. Church is the home of theology.

The ultimate purpose of theology is spiritual. It is the science of God that enables faithful Christ-followers to know God more and to find spiritual wisdom[4].

Theological Method

Theological method refers to the way in which a person does his theology. It has to do with the way a person finds meaning from the text of the Bible. Methods are followed to come to a conclusion about the meaning of the text. Doctrines are derived from the text of the Bile and hence theological method plays an important role in the formation of different doctrines.  Different theologians use different theological methods when doing their theology. It is important to note if a theologian is using the method correctly when he deals with important texts related to various subjects. Different theologies like systematic theology, biblical theology and historical theology use different methods to derive their results.

The topic of theological method is important for Christians because the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ requires his disciples to go and preach the gospel and make disciples. This Commission does not end there but we are supposed to teach them to obey everything which Jesus commanded. It requires teaching the content of his teachings to people.  According to B.B. Warfield, it is very important that we communicate the substance of biblical teaching in a way that will make sense to the person living on our generation. The Christian belief should be the basis on which everything else gets stated. Modern thought should not be the basis on which we derive Christian beliefs. We should state modern thoughts in terms of Christian beliefs. How we communicate while teaching plays an important role in determining if correct beliefs are thought.

Theological methods should not be seen as more authoritative than the Word of God itself. No method is equivalent to the revelation given in the Scriptures. So it is very important to remember that theological methods are results of human thinking and analysis. We use theological methods to develop and communicate the revelation found in the Scriptures in an effective way, but this can never be seen as authoritative as Scriptures itself.

Theology as a Spiritual Enterprise

Doing theology is properly regarded as a spiritual enterprise. When done with the right attitude it should help a person to grow spiritually. It should enhance the religious or spiritual experiences of a theologian. It is important that a minister of God is learned as well as godly so that he will not only teach others but will also be able to lead a religious life.  Theology helps a person grow in devotional life as he understands about the divine nature of God. According to B.B. Warfield, the unique end of theology is to make God known. The student of theology is brought by his daily task into the presence of God and is kept there. Depth of his spiritual culture can be developed as a result of this. Just as an enterprise, it is important and not easy. It needs the grace and help of God as theology not only concerns with knowledge which people acquire as a result of his study but it also results in spiritual growth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Clark, David K. To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 21.

[2] Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 25.

[3] David K. Clark, To Know And Love God: Method for Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), 210.

[4] Clark, To Know And Love God: Method for Theology, 219.

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