Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Together For The Gospel 2008: Session #1

Ligon Duncan

Sound Doctrine – Essential to Faithful Pastoral Ministry: A Joyful Defense and Declaration of the Necessity and Practicality of Systematic Theology for the Life of the Church

Systematic theology answers the question: “What does the entire Bible teach us about ______?”

More specifically, a doctrine (or teaching) answers the question: “What does the entire Bible teach us about _(some topic)_?”

And systematic theology is a collection of all the doctrines to be gathered from the Bible.

Scriptures that point us directly to the importance of theology:

  • John 17:13-17 - Jesus teaches that theology is the source of our joy and, not only this, it is the source of our growth.
  • Matthew 28:18-20 - Jesus wants us to teach everything he commanded, not just the ABC’s
  • 1 Timothy 1:3 - Paul’s first instruction to Timothy is to tell teachers not to teach bad theology
  • 1 Timothy 1:10 - We know how we are to behave based on proper theology.
  • 1 Timothy 6:1-3 - Proper theology leads to godliness.
  • Titus1:1
  • Knowledge of the truth (theology) leads to godliness.

According to the Puritan William Perkins, theology is simply the science of how to live blessedly ever after. And, therefore, everyone is a theologian in some sense, whether they know it or not. The question is whether you are a good theologian or a bad theologian. The question is whether your theology is right or wrong.

Three main points:

1) Theology is criticized in the church today, even among evangelicals

    • Use more stories and narrative because people in this generation connect with storytelling more than teaching
2) The Bible teaches systematic theology

    • Luke 24:27 – when Christ teaches the disciples from all the Scriptures about the things concerning himself, what is he doing? Systematic theology! He is answering the question “What does the entire Bible have to teach about ME?” In other words, He’s teaching them Christology, the doctrine of the person and work of the Messiah.
    • Acts 18:28 – Apollos does the same thing in Ephesus, showing from all the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ
    • Acts 17:3 – Paul does the same thing in Thessalonica, showing from all the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ
3) What is theology important for?

    • It leads to worship. Look at Romans 11:32-36. Verse 32 is doctrine, a point of theology. And what does it directly lead to in verses 33-36? Doxology! Praise to God!
    • It is important for assurance in the life of the Christian. When Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:16 that he chose them, this is precious because they are all going to abandon him in just a matter of hours. Only the doctrine of sovereign election can give them (and us) the confidence that we are not hopeless and utterly forsaken when we fail Christ.
    • It is important for marriage. This one was most powerful for me as I’ve been thinking about this very thing over recent months. When Paul tells husbands in Ephesians 5:25 to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, he is telling them to look at the doctrine of atonement treasure its absolute sufficiency and supremacy in justification and making them right with God. But after this, he is telling to look at the doctrine of the atonement and let that teach them how to love their wives. The implications for this, to me, are stunningly beyond words.

One of the major thrusts in some evangelical circles is to favor biblical theology (narrative/story of redemption) over systematic theology. In the panel discussion following this sermon, Lig and the guys did a great job clarifying how biblical theology and systematic theology, when done properly, are never divorced from each other. And one of the great points that Lig made was that when Jesus told parables and stories, His point wasn’t to make the truth fuzzy. But rather His point was always to convey a point of truth made razor sharp through a story that would drive it into their hearts. Sadly, there are those in some evangelical circles who want to embrace storytelling in order to play fast and loose with truth. And this was not why Jesus told stories.

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