Charles Schultz had some tremendous religious insights. One of his "Peanuts" cartoons pictures Lucy and Linus looking out the window at a steady downpour of rain. "Boy," says Lucy, "look at all that rain. What if it flood the whole world?"
"It will never do that," replies Linus. "In Genesis 9, God promised Noah that it would never happen again, and the sign of that promise is the rainbow."
"You've taken a great load off my mind," says Lucy with a relieved smile. Linus replies, "Sound theology has a way of doing that."
Everyone has a theology — some concept of what God and man and the universe is all about. That theology may not be systematized or even clearly stated. But it is still there. The question is not whether you hold to a theology, but rather whether that theology is sound and Biblical.
WHAT IS THEOLOGY?
The term "theology" is a compound made up from the joining of two words:
2.Logos: "Word" or "study."
Theology then is the study of God and those things that God has revealed. We also ought to understand what theology is NOT.
Theology is the study of God's revelation of Himself to man. This definition presupposes that God has revealed Himself to man. Were it not for the fact that God had revealed Himself, we would know nothing at all about God.
There is a "knowledge gap" between God and man. Man cannot, by his own self-effort, know anything about God. It is God Himself who must bridge the gap if we are to know of Him. The good news is that God has done this, revealing Himself to man.
PROBLEMS IN THEOLOGY
1. The Finite Versus the Infinite.
God is infinite. Man is finite. We cannot grasp the concept of the infinite. We do not even have a separate word for "infinite." Our word "infinite" is merely a negation of the positive term "finite." When we say that something is infinite, we are merely saying that it is not finite.
A finite mind cannot possibly comprehend an infinite being. This will of necessity limit our understanding of God.
2. Holy Versus Sinful.
God is holy and righteous. His holiness and righteousness are infinite. There is no such thing as being "almost infinite." Anything less than infinite holiness and righteousness is separated from God by an infinite degree.
Man is sinful. This is not just a matter of what he DOES, but reflects what he IS. By nature, man does not want the things of the Spirit of God.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14).
What is a "natural man"? The phrase is the Greek text is yucikos anqrwpos - the "soulish man." He is the unbeliever. It takes the miracle of the new birth to turn a man's heart to God.
TYPES OF THEOLOGY
1. Natural Theology.
This is the study that examines those facts concerning God and His universe that are revealed in nature. This is considered theology by our earlier definition because we are examining how God has revealed Himself in nature.
2. Biblical Theology.
This is the study that traces God's truth about Himself and His relationship with men as that truth is developed historically in the books of the Bible.
It was this kind of theology that Stephen presented when he preached his sermon before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
3. Systematic Theology.
This is the study that follows an analytically devised scheme to organize into a single system all of the truth that we have about God and His universe. The Apostle Paul uses this kind of systematic approach in his study of the Righteousness of God in the book of Romans.
Draws its truths from a study of the universe.
Draws its study from the Bible.
Draws its study from Biblical Theology.
Sees God revealed in nature
Sees the revelation of God developed historically over the duration of the writing of the Bible.
Takes the revelation of God and organizes those truths into a doctrinal system.
It should be understood that when we approach the organizing of a systematic theology, we are not trying to "put God in a box." This is reflected in a poem by Tennyson:
We must recognize that God and the Scriptures rule over our theology and not the other way around. This means that if our theology conflicts with the Bible, we need to change our theology.
There is a warning here. It is that there are areas of theology that should not necessarily become divisive to the point of bringing contention to the church.