Sitting at the Feet of Theologians
As Presbyterians, we’re known for being “smart” Christians, though at times passionless for worship, evangelism and missions. While some might say the antidote for this sloth is greater personal commitment, a recasting of the vision, a shift in preaching, or all of the above, I would redirect us back to, of all things, a deep, refreshing reading and immersion in good theology, or “thinking and praying God’s thoughts back to Him.” Practically, how do we do it? How do we connect being “smart” with healthier adjectives such as passion-filled (zeal), loving, joyful, patient, gentle, and others to fashion worshippers in a culture which desperately needs to see them?
While the answer is not always this, the answer is sometimes this: sitting at the feet of theologians. Calvin called theologians the doctors/teachers of God’s Church. We all need good doctors to examine and assess us, and sometimes even operate. Theologians are specialists in helping train the Christian in the art of living (dying to self), and can aid us in healthier heart worship.
While at chapel service in seminary one morning, the school’s president was emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ parables in “Kingdom Life”. However, like most of us who have read the parables, sometimes they can be perplexing, even when Jesus interprets them for us in the same passage! He responded to our shared challenge of applying the scripture to personal life, the church and the culture, with his own challenge: brothers and sisters, you would do well to sit at the feet of theologians.
When we speak of Christian theology, we’re essentially saying a lot of things at once. And as Protestants (not just Presbyterians), we tend to use a somewhat “scientific method” to lay out our strategy for proclaiming the Gospel to both the World and ourselves. This unfolds in three areas, all of which speak back as one to help nurture our Christian growth.
Systematic theology essentially asks the question, “What the does the Church and its Bible say about God to our culture?” Systematics are a summation of its message to the world. Essentially, it’s the church’s proclamation of the Gospel in our current climate. Systematicians to read and consider would be: John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion), John Frame (4-Part Theology of Lordship series), and/or Michael Horton (The Christian Faith), to name a few.
Biblical theology asks the question, “What does the Bible say concerning x,y,z as it relates to the redemptive story?” Biblical theology gives God’s people greater clarity on certain elements of God’s redemptive narrative, fortifies the Church’s assurance of God’s Promises, and crystalizes those promises in God’s actions, all of which are amen in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and the subsequent pouring out of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Thus, biblical theology is a variety of different streams all flowing into the great river of systematics. Great biblical scholars to read and consider would be: William VanGemeran (The Progress of Redemption), Anthony Hoekema (The Bible & The Future), Meredith Kline (Images of the Spirit), and Geerhardus Vos (Biblical Theology), to name a few.
Practical theology is the life-application of these two coming together, to form the impetus for Christian worship in everyday living. Christian worship is anything and everything done unto the glory of God. Worship can be as simple as feeding your kids breakfast in the morning, witnessing to a friend at work, or doing the dishes. It’s not as much about what you’re doing, but whom you’re doing it for, that defines worship. A few great practical books to read and consider would be: Jay Adams (Christian Living in the Home), Stephen Smallman (The Walk); Kevin DeYoung (Crazy Busy; Just Do Something), and J.I. Packer (Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God).
In summary, the Christian is called to live out practically the redemptive story proclaimed by God concerning His Son (Rom. 1:1-4; Gal. 1:1-5). For the Christian, this Gospel-Drama has reinterpreted our story, is re-making us into the image of God’s Son, and is re-framing each of us to be including in the family portrait of God’s perfectly re-created family (Romans 8:18-25). For a rich family life and beautiful portrait of newness, the Christian needs a rich theology from the Spirit that breathes life into his/her everyday living. Sitting at the feet of theologians will certainly help connect the dots and enrichen the story. Good theology leads to healthy worship.