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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Doing Theology, Age Ten

Every Christian a 'theologian'
The word "theology" is not in the Bible, but the idea is. Theology comes from two Greek words, 'theos' for God, and 'logos' for reason. In the same way that biology is the study of the biosphere, theology is the study of God and his ways. For a believer this means the study of God's ways in his Word and world through the Scriptures.

A different way of learning - and different conclusions
Placing theology alongside biology or physiology or whatever other 'ology' is however, dangerous. There is a world of difference between studying the world around us and 'studying' God, and if we don't grasp the difference we'll soon go astray. For one thing, theology is worship. It is unthinkable that we should study God and his ways as some kind of intellectual exercise! Only a reverent attitude of humble worship will suit the Majesty of the Subject. A second difference with theology is this: studying God? What an insult to God, as if he were a subject and we were the object! As if we were 'up here', the analysing mind, and he was 'down there', the subject to be explored.  As if the object/subject relationship in all other branches of learning could be applied to God and us! If anyone is the Object it is God, if anyone a subject it is us. A third reason for a great divide between theology and every other 'ology' is that learning without obedience is impossible. In any other discipline, how you behave probably doesn't affect the learning process, but in theology, obedience and learning go together, "I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts" Psalm 119:100. A final difference is this: no 'student' of theology rises to any appreciable height. So high and mighty are God's ways, so past finding out, that we always remain in kindergarten, forever in kindergarten.

After saying all of that, every believer ought to desire to know God and his ways better, to love him with their whole beings, body, soul and mind. And this happens through God's Word.

My ten year old theologian!
Last week my wife and I went to one of those parent-teacher evenings for our ten year old son Caleb. As we sat waiting to see the teacher (why are they always delayed by 20 minutes?) we read through his writing books.

One little sentence caught my eye, and lifted my soul.

The class had been asked to write a piece on animal-testing for medical purposes. And this is a paraphrase-from-memory of what Caleb wrote:

Although I love animals to bits and don’t like any experiments on them, God made man in his image higher than the animals, so provided steps are taken to make the pain as little as possible, I think it is better if animals die to help humans to live.”

Apparently he had some heated debates with other animal lovers that day! Now what pleased me was the way he was applying his theology to life. If God made us in  his image but not the animals, it follows that we are far more valuable than they, and provided we cause minimal suffering to them, it is OK to use them to alleviate the suffering of God's higher creation. He might not have his biblical ethics on animal testing all sorted out perfectly but this was a good start.

The alternative world-view flows from naturalism and evolution. If we, like the animals have evolved, then there is no reason to place us above the animals and 'immoral' to experiment on them. Caleb hadn't bought into these modern myths, and for that I thank God.

The blunt fact of the matter is that the Biblical viewpoint alone is true: human beings stand head, shoulders and cliff-face above every other creature. There is no gradual incline from amoeba to monkey to man. There is a sharp discontinuity between all living creatures and us. This is very easy to show, especially when an instance of so-called likeness between animals and ourselves ('look the monkey is using a tool') is examined in elementary detail. (Example: 'tool' is an anthropomorphism used by ape-loving communities; the stupid ape is using a stick for one tiny little purpose, it is unable to use it in any other way: it is not a tool, it's a stick. "Using a tool' is an insult to the word and idea tool.)

Don't misunderstand me, the monkey stands infinitely above rocks and sand: it's not the lowliness of monkeys, but the nobility of man we are talking about here.

The point: a renewed mind
But here is my point. Every Christian should be doing theology: applying God's Word to the issues that surround us in the world. If our thinking is not renewed in this way, by God's Word, it will, by default be conformed to the pattern of this world, and we will be thinking and acting like the world which passes away.

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