Know God or Know about God

Should there be an Introduction to a Little Basic Theology?

At a discussion about ‘A Day of Small Things’ with a few friends, the suggestion was made that there should be an introduction to a little basic theology.  This is a subject many like myself have steered clear of, even regarding the term as a dirty word, and for very good reason.

–  We read the scriptures, we have bible readings and other occasions, and we pray with a view to ‘knowing God’ and in an assembly setting it can be said that we are ‘taught of God’ and guided by the Holy Spirit.

– On the other hand, theology is the critical study of the nature of the divine.  It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. (Wikipedia) – Trying to mentally encompass the inscrutable God is futile, even profane!

However, there are times when we desire to help fellow Christians who have been subjected to a different system of teaching.  It is then useful to understand lines of thought, which we might feel are not fully in accord with, or a misinterpretation of scripture, even when they are held by seriously devout godly believers.

So recently I have been seeking to produce a short guide to some of the theological terms that we might encounter – not to make theologians of us, wasting time on ‘foolish and unlearned questions (2 Tim 2:23)’.  But it is useful to know what is meant, for example, by the difference between Calvinism (and its five points) and Arminianism, pre-, post- and a-millennial eschatology etc.  Through this we can see how we might relate to those from Baptist (Calvinist), Wesleyan/Methodist/Pentecostal (Arminian), and other backgrounds, and to be able to bring in what is positive in a meek way without giving offence.  We are exhorted: ‘In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth’  (2 Tim 2:25) – a scripture which follows the instruction as to separating from iniquity.

The Word

Love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God. He that loves not has not known God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 Darby)

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent(John 17:3)

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil 3:10) 

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth(2 Tim 3:7)

Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Eccl 12:12)

 

A Call for Help

I am no theologian – I studied economics and statistics, not theology.  So I would like to invite several to review my draft when I have done my bit.  There are two or three persons I have already contacted, but if you feel you could help please let me know.

John Nelson Darby

Meanwhile, for a start, here is what might be written about Darby theology

 

Branch of Theology Darby’s Probable Position
Hermeneutics  – concerning the Biblical text Qualified-literal – Passages are literal,  figurative or symbolic, and recognised as such.   Also, that which relates to Israel and the law (OT) is distinct from that which applies to the church and grace (NT).
Soteriology – concerning salvation Classic evangelical – God-given faith in the blood.  Without the atoning work of Christ, man must bear the guilt of his sin and remain at a distance from God without knowledge of Him or of His love. More Calvinist than Arminian but claiming neither
Eschatology – concerning prophecy ‘The Father of Premillennial Dispensationalism’ – The pre-tribulation secret rapture with the Church returning with Christ at the start of the millennium
Ecclesiology – concerning the church and church form The true church is heavenly, unified and perfect – publicly it is in ruins – the call is to depart from iniquity and gather to the Lord’s name – without form, organisation or ordained leadership.
Christology – concerning the Person of Christ None! – How can the blessed Object of our worship be studied academically?

A Warning

This is no substitute for:
  • Reading, remembering the Holy Scriptures (see 2 Tim 3:15)
  • Knowing that your sins are forgiven and rejoicing in the Saviour (see 1 John 2:12)
  • Awaiting our Lord’s return with a heart aglow (see 2 Peter 1:19)
  • Enjoying a wonderful relationship with one another, with he Lord’s presence when two or three are gathered to His Name (see Matt 18:20)
  • Worshipping our great ‘God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13 Darby and others)
This is reality – not theology!

Your comments, please

God’s blessings for the holiday season

Your brother, Sosthenes

&

 

7 comments

  1. Darby’s view on Calvinism and Arminianism . Arminians take up Christ’s dying for all, and generally connect the bearing of sins with it, ans all is confusion as to the efficacy and effectualness of of Christ’s bearing our sins, and they deny any special work for His people. They say if God loved all He cannot love some particularly; and uncertain salvation is the result, and man often exalted.
    Calvinist holds Christ bearing the sins of His people so that they are effectually saved, but sees nothing else. He will say , if Christ Christ loved the church…there can be no real love for anything else, and denies Christ’s dying for all, and the distinctive character of propitiation, and the blood on the mercy seat.
    Please refer Vol.27, Pg.319,320.
    It is always good to know these theological terminologies. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are the true teachers. The basic knowledge of God for eternal life and godliness, we can understand by reading the Bible with prayer.
    This is my personal testimony. I have a bible degree from an institution, but all basic knowledge of the Bible and the doctrines I learned from my local assembly.

    In Christ,
    T.M.

  2. Dear Brother Thampi

    Thank you for your comments. Like you, the local assembly is where we learn what is of God. The Lord is with two or three gathered to His name. I never studied theology, and only felt the need to understand some things after translating some 400 letters of JND a few years ago. Now Gods has given me a very worthwhile project to work on in my retirement,

    Darby was very scathing on Arminianism – free will, falling from grace, sinless perfection. As to Calvinism he was closer to it, but expressions like ‘limited atonement’ seemed unscriptural.

    ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16) – this is not limited to the elect.

    ‘21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus’ (Rom 3:21-26). – Contrasts what is towards all and what is met by the blood.

    Some say that JND accepted a sort of ‘four-point Calvinism’.

    What do you think?

    Your brother in Him

    Sosthenes

  3. Brother Sosthenes:

    I believe you have captured everything quite well! I would just add- or encourage- that though theology has tended toward academia, it is not a mere academic pursuit. As you’ve stated, it is a matter of properly understanding the Word of God and reality, as a whole.

    In addition, one of my old professor’s stated that theology is about 90% terminology… Words have incredible meaning when it comes to theology and it absolutely matters how we define our terms and how we think about these things. So, I think your introduction here is most fitting!

    Kryptō with Christ in God,
    – Phil

  4. I did want to add that as to a systemizing of Darby’s theology, that I’m not 100% sure how that would go, simply because though I’ve read much of his writings (well, mainly Synopsis and then snippets and articles of other things here and there), I’m not as familiar with what he would say about particular things (or, at least, that would differ from what I would think he or other Dispie’s would say and that sort of thing).

    I believe the categories you have started with are a good beginning, but I’m not so sure he’d say (or that the Scriptures say) that we can’t study the Lord Jesus. I understand the holy fear and reverence in refraining, but the Scriptures, of course, speak wondrously of Christ and certainly give us tomes of what could be said about Him. Most theologians start with things like his divinity and humanity, that He was (and is) 100% of each without compromising either (using scripture and the early church fathers and their creeds for assistance there) and then work their way up from there to further cover His incredible person and work.

    Also, Dr. Fruchtenbaum has written a fascinating study on another often forgotten branch of theology called Israelolgy (or basically, who is Israel, past, present, and future, and defending God’s faithfulness in that branch). There are also fields of study that cover Satan, the angels, and the fallen angels (Dr. Chafer’s classic “Satan,” is a good start, here), the Holy Spirit, and so on.

  5. Hi Phil
    Thank you for your comments which are as always well thought out.
    As to JND’s Critology – this could extend to several volumes. But he was always against making an academic subject ot our Lord’s Person. I totally concur with this.
    Also this letter was designed to promote input, and therefore I was deliberately a bit controversial (not contentious I hope).
    I hadn’t heard of the word ‘Israelolgy’. I guess that is not a subject in vogue, as so many say that Israel has been replaced, something that JND was very strongly against.
    If I get time I’ll read a little about Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s work. Do you know a summary?
    Yours in Him
    Danial (ie Sosthenes)

  6. You’re welcome for the comments. It’s always a blessing to read what you have to say and to respond, in kind.

    I totally agree that the Lord Jesus- knowing Him- is not an academic pursuit and that, therefore, any gathering of knowledge about Him should spur us on to further love for Him and for our neighbor and brothers and sisters in Christ. He cannot he studied in the way a textbook could be studied- and this is also true for much of what we learn from Scripture, as well, in other theological endeavors…

    No worries about the supposed controversies! All of it made good sense and should have stirred up thoughts and discussion, as it did.

    Yup yup. Israelology is not a well studied field (at least, systematically) but we all have one and Dr. F was one of the few to formally identify it from the Scriptures. There are others who use this term, but it’s, you’re right, certainly not in vogue. Ha.

    From the Amazon website for his book (which you can find here: ISRAELOLOGY: The Missing Link In Systematic Theology https://www.amazon.com/dp/1935174649/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_5uowBb82CB2C4):

    “This groundbreaking study investigates four approaches to the theology of Israel Past, Present and Future, and scrutinizes beliefs that tend to confuse the identities of both Israel and the Church. The Biblical Evangelist called Israelology a “tremendous, masterful book… Amillennialism, postmillennialism and other forms of Covenant Theology go up in smoke under the withering blaze of biblical light Fruchtenbaum places on them.”

    I actually haven’t read all of this, but he’s definitely a good read and he explains Scripture simply and precisely. My favorite book by him is “Footsteps of the Messiah,” which you can find here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0914863096/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_bxowBbDA1FBD4

    It’s an end times reference book that is most excellent!

  7. You’re welcome for the comments. It’s always a blessing to read what you have to say and to respond, in kind.

    I totally agree that the Lord Jesus- knowing Him- is not an academic pursuit and that, therefore, any gathering of knowledge about Him should spur us on to further love for Him and for our neighbor and brothers and sisters in Christ. He cannot he studied in the way a textbook could be studied- and this is also true for much of what we learn from Scripture, as well, in other theological endeavors…

    No worries about the supposed controversies! All of it made good sense and should have stirred up thoughts and discussion, as it did.

    Yup yup. Israelology is not a well studied field (at least, systematically) but we all have one and Dr. F was one of the few to formally identify it from the Scriptures. There are others who use this term, but it’s, you’re right, certainly not in vogue. Ha.

    From the Amazon website for his book (which you can find here:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1935174649/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_5uowBb82CB2C4):

    “This groundbreaking study investigates four approaches to the theology of Israel Past, Present and Future, and scrutinizes beliefs that tend to confuse the identities of both Israel and the Church. The Biblical Evangelist called Israelology a “tremendous, masterful book… Amillennialism, postmillennialism and other forms of Covenant Theology go up in smoke under the withering blaze of biblical light Fruchtenbaum places on them.”

    I actually haven’t read all of this, but he’s definitely a good read and he explains Scripture simply and precisely. My favorite book by him is “Footsteps of the Messiah,” which you can find here:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/0914863096/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_bxowBbDA1FBD4

    It’s an end times reference book that is most excellent!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.