- TABLE OF CONTENTS
- WAR ROOM -
STUDY - MORAL
ISSUES - KING
JAMES BIBLE - CULTS
Systematic Theology is a man-made invention designed to elevate scholars above the masses and keep them panting at the feet of said scholars for tidbits of truth.
By Steve Van Nattan
CAUTION: Most theologians who read here should take a Xanax before proceeding.
The human mind was created by God to be a computer which organizes everything. Some people do better at organizing than others. I confess that I have to work hard to get it right. I find it most safe to assume I will never have it all right. But, we all tend to want organization. When this human skill is used to reduce everything in the Christian faith to a system, error will be the result, whether it is much error or just a little. That is why God wants us to stay in his Word. The Word of God has already been organized by God. We cannot improve on the revelation of the Word without corrupting it. Systematic Theology is the work of great intellectual men who feel compelled to improve on God's revelation and organize it better for him. Theology often borders on blasphemy for this reason.
THE RIGHT WEAPON
If you ask a theologian why he is given to theology, he will almost always refer you to some group of heretics who have corrupted the Truth found in the Word of God. He will tell you that a system of Truth needs to be assembled by defenders of the Truth to use in the battle for Truth. It sounds noble, but the whole thing is human effort to invent new weapons in spiritual warfare.
Two things happen:
1. The new system of offensive weapons contains much that is sound doctrine from the Word of God. But, the man made system also contains some fiction or outright heresy that the inventors of the system produced. It is preposterous to ask God to help us fight a good warfare, and win the battle, using defective man made inventions when we already have the two edged Sword of the Word of God.
2. The adversary, for which the system or theology was invented, does not learn anything. They become incensed, and they invent their own man made systematic theology to fight back against the other system or weapon. In the process, this enemy of the Truth also starts with a large load of sound doctrine in defense of the Word of God, and then they too add certain fictions and heresies. The good intentions of one group of theologians leads to two offenses against the Word of God.
3. Theology always leads to debate and discord. Two systems attack one another, and no matter how civil they try to be, rancor evolves. This is because both systems cannot be right. One is right and the other wrong, or possibly, both systems are wrong. This will not happen when the Word of God is used literally and believed explicitly and exclusively.
The result of this human endeavor is that a war for the Truth is waged using defective weapons of warfare on both sides. All along, those who really wanted to take the high ground in Christ should have been content to do warfare with the Word of God plus nothing.
What saith the Holy Spirit about this?
Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through
God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
4:6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto
Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD
8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against
notice, in verse 11, the only weapon given to the saint by God to use in spiritual
The words, "whole armor" are given, in verse 11 above, in the Greek as "panoply." This word is used in the New Testament three times, and every time it is used for whole armor. This means your armor is absolutely as complete as necessary for Christian warfare with ONLY the Word of God as your offensive weapon. When you find a saint willing to go into battle with only the Word of God as his weapon, why would you want to encumber him with a man made systematic theology and a man made confession of faith. When a soldier goes into combat, he is given one rifle, not two of three.
God has a direct statement about men who add weapons and systems of theology to the whole armor he has given us:
Luke 17:1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
Woe until theologians who offend God by adding man made devices to the already complete arsenal of Christian warfare.
THE GRAND DETOUR OF THEOLOGY
A group of men sit in a stuffy room, with walls lined with commentaries, at some seminary, and they discuss what God did and why he did it. They use reason, logic, and their presuppositions from other past confabs like the present one. They go deep into endless discussion of all the variables that must be included in order to explain God, both to each other, and to the masses and simple minded peasants, like you and me. The Bible is occasionally referenced to find proof texts used to prove or refine their ongoing mental gymnastics. This gives the whole exercise the appearance of being faithful to Christian orthodox teachings. But, their use of the Bible is not to seek life changing truth for themselves.
Much is made of theologians who have gone on before over the ages of Church history. "Giants of the faith" such as Augustine and John Calvin are brought up to shed light on the discussion. This obsession with past theologians can become so overpowering that the whole process looks more like a seance than a Christian event. What they conclude may be put into writing and become part of a textbook for future seminary students. It may also be used to determine how to present the Christian faith to the common Christian. In that case, the conclusions will have to be reduced to simple language that can be marketed in Christian book stores. It is always a worthy exercise to make theology marketable and to get a return on investment.
These scholars seldom take their load of bombast to ordinary Christians one on one. Some of them are so heavenly minded that they absolutely cannot deliver their great thoughts in everyday English. By virtue of their lofty position in the scholars' union, they are paid well to bless various plenary sessions of gatherings of the masses where they wow the gullible with their special vocabulary and brilliant elocution. After they speak, they go down front, and weak minded saints gather around them and try to talk theological shop talk, much to the smug amusement of the theologian.
FAITHFUL BIBLE BELIEVER
The down home Bible believer sits in his recliner in his living room. The Holy Spirit is his only teacher. He reads his Bible, and he meditates on several questions?
What is God saying in this passage?
Why did God say this?
Does this text call for light from other texts in the Bible (context)?
What is real here, that is, of what can I now be certain which I did not understand before?
If I understand this text correctly, what is God telling me in it?
What is my new found responsibility to God?
How can this new knowledge of the Word of God (new to me anyway) give me peace, victory, and direction in my life?
Have I learned more about the God I love and serve?
When this sincere seeker is asked by his five year old, "Daddy, what are you reading about in the Bible,? the man explains the truth to his young son in language his son understands.
R.A. Torrey once said, "You do not understand any Bible doctrine until you can explain it to a five year old." I would rather reach that level of mastery any day than to have three Ph.Ds from Oxford or Dallas Seminary approve of my theology.
You have my permission to print these questions and put them in the fly of your Bible.
DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE?
The first group of double domed wise men are working with reason and creative thinking. They are inventing ways to explain God to God himself, as if God is not quite sure of himself. They are determined to define the Christian faith in high intellectual terms that cannot be assailed by critics. They have gone to the halls of higher learning, and they were told that the Bible is simply too simple and plain to explain the Christian faith. They were sold a grand legal system of expanding on the Bible with large words and high thinking, and they will spend the rest of their lives playing with their new found toys.
When my Dad ran a mechanical shop for a mission in Africa, we had many Volkswagens to work on. So, Dad ordered the shop manual from Wolfburg Germany for Volkswagens. It was the VW company manual, and it was very complete. And, it was written in plain English so we could understand it.
So, what if some engineer in Germany decided to write a much larger systematic book discussing all the laws and fine points of physics and high toned principles involved with Volkswagens? There is no way we would have wasted our time to buy that sort of thing. We needed to repair the missionary's VW and get it back on the road. We wanted our facts about VWs from the people who created them, not from alleged experts in the fine points. Can you imagine looking up carburetion, and reading this? "The best rendering of the text on carburetion is found in the original Greek."
The second fellow above is studying the Bible and finding absolute Truth. He is alone, and the Holy Spirit has him right where he wants him. The result of his reading and meditation is that he hears directly from God by study of the Word of God and not by endless intellectual discussions and human reasoning. Any brilliant notions of any theologian not explicitly found in the Word of God just do not matter to this Truth seeker.
For high toned scholars to claim that the plain Truth, learned directly from the Word of God, is not enough to lead a man into Christian maturity, is blasphemy. And, I am told, there are men in high places who say this boldly and claim that the ordinary Christian cannot completely understand the Word of God.
Peter 2:1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and
envies, and all evil speakings,
Theologians, whether by malice or by plain stupidity, like to give the sincere seeker the impression that coming to the Word like a thirsty new born babe is an inferior experience for the Christian. That is a blasphemous contradiction of the above text and many others.
assumptions guide the systematic theologian as he goes about his task of considering
the whole scope of Scripture and inquiring how it all fits together. At many seminaries,
the systematic theology department is separate from the New Testament department
and the Old Testament department. This is because the systematic theologian has
a different focus than the Old Testament professor and the New Testament professor.
Biblical scholars focus on how God has revealed Himself at various points over
time, while the systematician takes that information, puts it all together, and
shows how it fits into a meaningful whole. This is a daunting task, to be sure,
and I am convinced that no one has ever done it perfectly."
The implied message is that the Bible alone is not sufficient. We need great brimming egg heads to provide the big picture for us. Even God must be startled at how grand and huge the metanarrative is after these pompous fools get it finally compiled and delivered up for publication. The Apostle Paul would throw it back at them and say, "Reduce it to ten pages with five chapters, and I will read it."
Thanks R C for giving us your admittedly imperfect and dull fabrication. It is an honor, to us flatlanders, to be violently used by the Pope of Reformed theology. I shall do my best to do massive damage to your systematic slop hog swill bucket before I leave you for Glory. See if you can fit that into your systematic theology outline, sir. Honor me please by giving me a sub point in your blather and bluster on Divine Retribution.
Also, Sproul inadvertently damns systematic theology when he says that seminaries separate systematic theology from the Old and New Testament departments. I rest my case. Systematic theology is an extra-biblical discipline which needs to be isolated from the Bible in order to bloom into a glorious man-made product.
The last sentence by Sproul is damning.
God, in giving us his Word, has done it perfectly.
Peter 1:18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him
in the holy mount.
Psalms 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Sproul admits to the fact that every systematic theology ever written is imperfect. So, let us delve into a bit of reasoning and logic. If we already have the perfect Word of God with no human management to compile it, why go looking for a man-made system that is doomed to be imperfect from the get go? Finally, Sproul, as one of his books indicates, claims that every believer is a theologian by default. This is the height of idiocy. The fact that I am a Bible literalist in no way implies that I am a theologian. This is the pompous ass factor of scholarship. Sproul imagines that he can declare me a scholar and theologian, and it must be so because he is the Pope of Reformed theology today. Bah, and double Bah.
I want to use some down home logic to deal with this claim that we are all destined to be theologians. Sproul uses the reverse logic that, since he and his scholar's union point back to biblical Truth, if you also believe that Truth, that makes you a theologian like him. This is the logic that says, "I am one, so your are one." That is like saying that if you look both ways before you cross the street in Omaha, Nebraska, you must be a Dutchman because the Dutch also look both ways in the Netherlands before crossing the street in Amsterdam. Try again, Herr Sproul. We caught you using creepy logic.
This trick by R C Sproul is a typical example of the way theologians use perverse logic and mental gymnastics to intimidate their victims. Theologians live in a world of deception and stealth, and that is NOT the way of the Master or the Apostles of the Christian faith. Don't be deceived by the condescending smile.
PERSONAL INVESTMENT OR FREE RIDE
Man made systematic theology is a free ride. All you have to do it take a theology class in Bible college or Seminary, buy the theology text book of the system you choose, and you have it all there in black and white. All you need to do is inhale.
But, if you follow the Apostolic biblical method of determining what you believe, in the end, it becomes yours.
2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only,
but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
You, the Bible, and God are working. In verse 12 YOU do the work, and in verse 13 GOD is working. Why settle for the work of a Seminary professor and extra biblical books and systems? You can find out what you believe and make it yours if you stay with the model Paul gave you above.
The Reformed Churches have lost the spirit of Martin Luther. Before he broke with the Roman Church, Luther was a monk and zealous for the return of the Catholic Church to be sensitive to the people of the Church. The Roman Church has always made it very clear that their Church is all about the hierarchy, the real estate, and canon law. The people are more victims of the monster than they are the biblical Bride of Christ. The Catholic Bride has been replaced with "Mother Church." So, when Luther made his famous break with the Roman Church, he at once became obsessed with making the Gospel and Christian faith easy for ordinary Christians to understand. This temperament resulted in Luther writing and compiling hymns with melody instead of dull chanting. Luther started teaching children to sing, and he got married so he would understand the life of married church members. The tender hearted Luther wrote Christian songs just for children.
Since the days of Luther, the whole world of the Reformed denominations have buried themselves in theology and confessions, legal systems which once again insulated the leaders from the church members. Luther's personal adventure in Bible study resulted in him working out (completing) his own understanding of salvation and God's thoughts toward man.
Working out your own salvation means work, and it never ends this side of Heaven. Theology is all made up for you, it is complete, and you soon find that you need to make no new effort to feel good about yourself. Working out your own salvation also does not stop at a man made outline. When you follow the Apostolic model of knowledge gotten from the Bible alone, you soon find that it is a process of growing into a mature Christian life. Theology demands nothing of the scholar in the way of life changes and personal maturity in the faith. Just memorize the arguments and proof texts, and you have arrived. Here is where God wants you to go instead:
Peter 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and
to virtue knowledge;
The theologian will say, "See there, you need John Calvin to make your election sure."
That is a lie. You need to dive deep into the Word of God so that the Holy Spirit can bring you into all truth.
16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all
truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall
he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
It all depends on who you trust the most to teach you, Westminster Seminary or the Holy Ghost. Will it be John Calvin or God?
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
WHAT IS THE "SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY OUTLINE?"
This is a mega outline, complete with copious subpoints, that is supposed to include all the doctrinal issues possible in the study of Christian truth from the Bible.
First, where in the Bible did any inspired prophet, Jesus Christ, or the Apostles give you an outline of Truth? There is none. That means an outline of Bible Truth is not inspired of God and may be a deadly fetish to any Bible student.
Second, no systematic theology outline includes every doctrine in the Bible. Thus, their megaoutline gives you the impression that anything in the Bible that is not covered by the outline is nonessential.
Ask any theologian where in the systematic theology outline the doctrine of eating meat is discussed. That IS a doctrine God included when he told Noah, after the flood, that he was henceforth to eat the animals. The doctrine of food is also important when studying the law of Moses on the topic of which animals are clean and permitted for food. Finally, the doctrine of food, in the Bible, becomes deep in doctrinal implications when we read about the Lord's Supper. Much theological error is out there about this doctrine.
The clever theologian will tell you that the doctrine of meat eating would be implied under the doctrinal subpoint on the Law and Grace. Bah. Truth is not implied in the Bible. It is either plainly presented explicitly, or it is not there. The Bible has nothing to say about how to cook potatoes. So, that is one thing God leaves up to you. But, when you adopt some silly notion that you become more holy if you stop eating meat, you are disobeying the doctrine of meat eating given to Noah (Genesis 9:1-6).
There are hundreds of such doctrines in the Bible that the omnipotent theologians failed to include in their outlines. If you don't know what to do about an issue of life after you have read the Bible, here is what you are told to do:
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
4:4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and
be still. Selah.
4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Meaning, God gave you a brain, and he gave you Bible based wisdom..... go figure it out for yourself. There is no outline, so the Holy Spirit will give you the horse sense to do the right thing.
Reader, we are in spiritual warfare with intellectual predators who hold the rank of Theologian. We are surrounded on all sides by them. Do not let one of them get away. Do all the harm possible to their war machine.
Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal
but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
THE SECOND FELLOW ABOVE,
Absolutely, but not because he did not bury himself in high toned theological machinations. If he is not under the authority of the Holy Spirit, he may come up with serious error. But, the second fellow has an infinitely better chance of coming to learn the Truth because he is not trying to redesign the Truth into a preconceived format that some effete egg head presented long ago. The lack of Calvin's Institutes never lead a man into spiritual defeat.
1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
I need to talk about Independent Fundamental Baptist preachers here. Many of them went to a seminary which was thoroughly infested with pompous scholars of the Baptist variety. These alleged scholars send their graduates out believing they are totally essential to the spiritual health of the saints. These preachers will say such stupid things as, "Follow me, and I will follow Jesus," and,"there is one man who stands between your family and Hell..... your pastor" (Sam Gipp). These decrees are NOWHERE in the Bible. This sort of jack boot brat needs to be rebuked soundly. Just do so person to person so that he may repent if the Holy Ghost actually is in him. Some of these preachers are not even born again. They just crave power and the cash flow derived from enslaving the saints to "your pastor." Beware of the Baptist preacher who refers to himself in the third person as "your pastor," as if he is the fourth member of the Godhead.
THE BIBLE ON THE PERSONAL METHOD OF BIBLE KNOWLEDGE
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Thyself, not thyselves. You do NOT need human supervision to find the truth in the King James Bible.
8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my
word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Jesus did not say, "If you continue in my theology....."
You shall know the truth when you continue in his Word.
Psalms 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
Psalms 119:99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
THERE ANY USE
Every systematic theology ever written has been skewed in various ways to define Christian Truth to the advantage of some denomination or system of Christian community. Why waste your time buried in theological discussion which you must constantly correct of its errors? When the Bible is held as the ONLY source for the believer, there is nothing outside of the Bible that can send the believer into a cul de sac. The believer has his own understanding of the Truth which he hammered out himself.
2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only,
but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
"Work out" means to finish what you started. The Bible is where you finish learning more and more about the Savior whom you first confessed by faith. Verse 13 finishes the thought..... the work you are to do in verse 12 will be inspired by God who is in you. This life experience cannot be had by a scholar's union pouring over a dozen commentaries with other men helping you do the work instead of God the Holy Spirit.
The argument will be raised, "Is there not a use for just a little theology?"
The same question could be asked for crack cocaine, "Is it not safe to use a little crack?"
The answer to both questions is NO. A little theology, like crack, is seductive. Theology feeds the ego, and therein lies the deadly nature of it. Once the user of theology imbibes some discussion, such as TULIP Calvinism for example, he becomes convinced that he has the advantage of special wisdom which the plain Jane Bible believer lacks. This then seduces the budding theologian to dip again and again into theological discussions to get the rush.
Theology, again like crack cocaine, lifts the user from the mundane world of literal interpretation of the Word of God into the seductive club of effete snobs who feel vastly superior to the Bible peasant. And this destroys fellowship. The ordinary deacon, with whom the budding theologian used to discuss the plain use of the Bible, now seems dull and common compared to the degreed elite club of the theologians.
From there, the addiction then moves on to the diminishing of the importance of Bible study in the old literal way, and the distance between the Word of God and human wisdom increases. And, then the budding theologian finds himself cold and ready to delve on into grievous sin. This is why so many theologians seem so cold and disinterested in talking about Jesus and the plain Truth.
Once you choose a systematic theology, like those of John Calvin or Arminius, you soon find that you have entered a new war zone. For every theology, there is a counter theology at war with it. Like the Jewish scholars in the graphic above, you soon realize you are at war with, not the devil, but with other Christians. Given that every theology is a man made system, why would you want more than one war in your life, especially a war where you must defend a man made system? Is it not enough that you are at war with the flesh and the devil?
The only use for the study of theology is to keep it out of your daily walk and the simplicity that is in Christ.
Corinthians 11:1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and
indeed bear with me.
When you move on from the simplicity in Christ to the complicated disciplines of systematic theology, you will soon find that you have another Jesus and another spirit. And, they will not be made in Heaven..... they will be made in Rome, Edinburgh, Grand Rapids, Wheaton, or in the halls of some musty seminary.
There..... I went and sprung a big theological word on you. My apology.
So, what is homiletics? It is the study of the art of preaching. In the Catholic Mass they have a time when the priest is supposed to preach a sermon. This is often no more than five minutes long because teaching, in the Catholic Church, is of the lowest priority. This sermon is called the homily.
So, there is nothing wrong with studying to learn to preach well and make yourself useful to the Lord's people. The problem is, when theologians teach young men to preach, they end up showing them how to make theological dissertations full of Greek references and quotes from Euripides and Pythagoras and the whole club up yonder on Mars Hill. The whole object of theological preaching is to show how robust and mighty the theologian is, and Jesus Christ takes the back seat. Or, Jesus is simply not in the audience.
I went to church one Sunday morning while I was on a trip to buy a car in Dallas, Texas. The church was in the suburbs of Dallas, and the preacher was said to be a great Bible teacher. He was also a graduate of Dallas Seminary nearby. Well, this old boy was indeed amazing. He could give an alternative rendering to the Greek, parse verbs, and project like John the Baptist. But, friend, the corn he shucked was dry, dry, dry. I noticed that he used a lot of big words that I had not heard since Bible college, and he seemed to look real pleased with himself every time he dropped one of these intellectual bombs on us.
I also noticed that Dr. John Walvoord, the President of Dallas Seminary, was sitting right out in the middle of the congregation. Dr. Walvoord is famous for his Presbyterian heritage, Edinburgh eat your heart out, and he was sitting up straight and tall with his shoulders thrown back all the way through the sermon. I could see he was pleased with his graduate.
Well, I kind of suspected what would happen, but I wanted to see what Dr. Walvoord would say to the preacher when we all left and he shook hands with the peasants. So, I placed myself near the front entrance, and when Dr. Walvoord came and shook the preacher's hand, he smiled a million dollar smile on the preacher there, and he told the preacher that he was a great credit to the art of preaching. At that point I realized that the whole sermon had been preached to Dr. Walvoord, as if the preacher was back in his seminary class on homiletics and preaching to get a final grade in the class.
I also realized that the members of that church went home dry, dry, dry. I sure did.
There is no greater intellect and high thinker in the Bible than the Apostle Paul, that is, beside Jesus. Paul claimed to be a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and he had been taught by the most powerful theologian of his day, Gamaliel. So, what did Paul the theologian say about his standard of homiletics?
2 Corinthians 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Key word: Simplicity
There is nothing more simple in the Bible than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That simplicity, when applied to all teaching, is what the Holy Ghost wants to use. Abandon it, and the Holy Ghost may abandon YOU.
1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
Paul did not use wisdom of words. If you read Paul's Epistles, you will soon see that he was no dim bulb. But, Paul did not preach, or write letters to churches, in order to flaunt his wisdom. Jesus Christ and the cross were at the heart of everything Paul taught. If the preacher does not come back to Jesus every time, he is a pantywaist.
Paul used the KISS rule..... keep it simple, saint.
When a pastor starts preaching, and soon you find yourself left behind mentally, that is NOT a sign the pastor is a great Bible teacher. It means the blessed idiot is much too full of himself and not full of the Holy Ghost. You need to take your wife and babies across town the hear an old country boy preach.
WITHOUT A PARABLE HE TAUGHT THEM NOTHING
Theologians have no use for parables. Why should a genius in theology stoop to tell stories when he can keep the masses spellbound with his big words and fair speeches?
When a preacher uses no stories, called parables in the Bible, to illustrate the truth he is trying to teach, he is a total failure. Notice, I did not call him somewhat deficient. I call a preacher a failure if he refuses to intersperse his teaching with stories.
How can I be so dogmatic? I have an authority on the subject who preached nothing without parables or stories.
Matthew 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
Mark 4:34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
Jesus even taught the disciples in his inner circle, his most eager learners, with stories. It is said the men learn better if they are taught by using stories. Ladies have the ability to take the truth at face value better than men. Deal with it, sir, you NEED those hunting stories in order to keep you interested at the round table at the cafe.
Martin Luther, who was a theologian, also knew about the methods of Jesus. Luther taught his preacher boys a plan for preaching:
This is simply the method of Jesus. When a theological genius preaches on and on without stories to illustrate the truth, that preacher is worthless. Why? Because he has rejected the teaching method of the Master he claims to be serving. One problem is that story telling is an art, and it cannot be learned by memorizing the systematic theology outline. Many intellectual men simply refuse to lower themselves to tell stories. Some of the worst stories I ever heard were told by thologians.
I hope you notice that I have used a number of stories in this article which illustrate what I am teaching. Of course, I use the Word of God plenty. But, the stories bring the thing home to you and me. That is one of my rules in every article in this journal. Not that I am clever..... I am simply following the example set by my Lord.
If Jesus was a story teller, the Holy Ghost today wants us to tell stories. Just make sure they illuminate the truth, not just make the preacher sound cool.
THEOLOGY AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE
It is glaringly obvious that theology is not spiritual warfare oriented.
We are told in the Bible that we are at war, and the battle is not optional.
6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
The best biblical example of spiritual warfare is in the temptation of Jesus by Satan.
4:1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by
the Spirit into the wilderness,
All three times Jesus was tempted, he answered, "It is written....." He quoted the Bible, the Law of Moses in particular. He did not quote from some systematic theology outline by the Rabbis, Pharisees or Saducees.
How would this quote stop Satan's attack? Would you want to read Martin Luther's theological words to Satan?
Jesus did not recite the Lord's Prayer to Satan. That was a prayer to be addressed to God the Father. Jesus went to the Law of Moses to quote to Satan. The Lord's prayer is a great way to start the day and to ask God for deliverance from temptation, but in the midst of the attack of Satan, only the Law of God will do.
The problem is that theology, like Luther's high thoughts, talks about truth as an entity isolated from life. Giving Satan, or any of his human soldiers, a lesson in how to respond to temptation is perfectly worthless in the fox hole of spiritual warfare. The only weapon that destroys the attacks of Satan is the quoting of the Word of God.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Paul does NOT suggest we resort to theology or theologians to resist temptation. He tells us to go straight to the Word of God. You are not preparing for combat when you bury your mind in theology books.
IS A BIBLE STUDY GROUP A USEFUL OPTION TO THE BELIEVER?
RULES FOR A GROUP BIBLE STUDY
CHRIST DID GIVE THE CHURCH TEACHERS
4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens,
that he might fill all things.)
sister can pass on to her little sister the
So, how do you know you have a sound teacher, whether in preaching or in leading a Bible study?
HOW CAN YOU TELL A BIBLE TEACHER IS CORRUPTED BY THEOLOGY?
Either run the teacher off, or find another Bible study group with a Nebraska farm boy for a teacher.
THEOLOGY IS MARRIED TO SCHOLARSHIP
In the Christian community, the pursuit of degrees and academic fame is a deadly killer of men. Some young buck decides to go on from Bible college to seminary. He leaves the seminary with a Masters Degree, and he then decides to go for the Ph.D. as well.
One hundred and fifty thousand dollars later, what happens to this scholar after he gets his Ph.D.?
One of the following:
1. He is asked to teach at a seminary. This results in him becoming part of the ingrown education world of high learning. Men teach who never filled a pulpit, planted a church, or served on the missionfield. Some of these men will take a pastorate for a couple of years, or they go to the missionfield for one three year term, all for the only purpose of padding their resume to appear to have had "real life experience." This will get them a better position in a seminary later.
2. Some scholars, upon getting their Ph.D., will start writing for theological journals, or even write a book on theology. If they can pull this off, they have a full life ahead of them of being a cloistered academic for many years. They never need to hit the street and behave like the Apostle Paul or Jesus. They can totally avoid the mundane masses in the pew.
3. There is the rare scholar who finds a field of lentils to defend (II Samuel 23:11-12), and he dives into a local church somewhere and sets his heart on winning souls and feeding sheep. These sort of scholars are as rare as hen's teeth. The ones of this sort whom I have met confessed that they had to almost totally abandon all of the high toned discussions from their seminary days. I personally found that most of my college notes, from Bible college days, were worthless and made no contribution to my life as a pastor.
Talk to the average Ph.D., and he has a great idea for a book. It will not be a book to help the ordinary Christian mature in the faith. It will be a book on some complicated aspect of human behavior and how other scholars like himself can master it and fit it into their systematic theology outline. This is why the world of theology is so over loaded with books and articles that are absolutely worthless to edify the saints. The theologian does not give a fig about edification. He simply wants to write another book, and another book, and several theological journal articles, and one day own a cottage in Martha's Vineyard or Palm Springs.
The scholar feeds his soul, from his first college level course in New Testament Survey 101, to the day he wears the matriculation robes of a mighty Ph.D., on large words, theological arguments, and the writings of famous Reformation geniuses. And, in the end he will NOT be able to resist inhaling the incense of the might and power of academia. He will be absolutely convinced that he is the most powerful knowledge machine in the Lord's Church. He will spend the rest of his life frustrated at having to come down to the level of the ordinary Christian in an ordinary local church. In the end, he will live and behave much like a Medieval monk in a monastery, hanging out with other scholars, and WASTING THOUSANDS OF HOURS DISCUSSING THEOLOGY.
Our boy we sent off the the Bible college long ago has become, in the vernacular back home in Missouri, worthless as tits on a boar hog. Not only do all his old friends back home find him hard to converse with, he cannot even come down the mundane level of his old Uncle Harry who runs the General Store in his home town.
Young man, consider carefully what is before you when you dream of becoming a scholar and an academic. You may end your life sitting in the corner of a very nice home, with ten thousand books in your library, and wondering what you will have to offer Jesus at the judgment of your works. Our Lord may not be quite as impressed with your book on hermeneutics as you are.
"Herman who" you ask? Don't worry about it. It does not matter. I only used the word to charm any scholar reading this article.
BAD THEOLOGY, BAD THEOLOGIAN
Bad theology is promoted and defended by bad theologians. By "bad" I mean really bad. Jesus warned us that they would be coming our way to do us and his Church harm.
7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly
they are ravening wolves.
The key to discerning a bad theologian is to look for fruit. Does he preach the Gospel, or is he a "specialist" who avoids the Gospel and only teaches his hobby horse topics? This is particularly important with Calvinists. Most of these theologians have no personal witness to the lost, and they never preach the Gospel.
A refreshing exception was Leonard Verduin who was a very potent theologian in the Reformed Church of America. I learned from his daughter that he was very eager to win souls when he was campus chaplain at East Lansing State College of Michigan. He also defended the heritage of the Anabaptists whom the Reformers killed and tortured in the 1500s. Thus, I can give him a leniency when he goes into theological issues.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE NUMBER ONE
When I was in Bible College in the 1960s, I was a sort of mascot of the seminary men who attended Talbot Seminary which was associated with the college. These fellows treated me to coffee and donuts while I listened to them discuss theological subjects. It seemed like an easy arrangement for free treats. They appeared to want to see if an ordinary peasant student could understand their logic and arguments. I tried hard, and I thought I was receiving light in the process. In those days, I thought theologians were the pinnacle of the Christian hierarchy.
One of the seminary students also worked on the campus maintenance crew with me. He was said to be the best informed man in the seminary on anything about John Calvin. The professors even referred to the guy as a resource to answer questions on Calvinism. This man was tall, persuasive, very masculine, and when he joined a group, everyone deferred to him. He was not proud or pushing..... he simply could not help taking command.
As the end of the school year approached, all of the seminary men who were graduating chattered and discussed the job offers they had from various churches. The main point of these discussions was where the best salaries were. At this point I realized something was wrong with the seminary concept.
The man I worked with, who was the Calvinism authority, graduated from seminary the same year I graduated from the college. He was hired by a large Presbyterian church not far from the seminary, and he was delighted and well paid. Six months later he bedded down a lady in the church and had to leave in shame.
When you go into the sandbox of theology to play, you have found a place where you can get into error and sin, while, at the same time, you imagine you must be very close to God. Since theology has, as Sproul made clear, divorced the Bible department, the theologian has a certain diplomatic immunity from being examined by the literal use of the Word of God. Theology, when it becomes an obsession, causes a man to neglect his relationship with Jesus Christ, and, like David, he is soon on the roof top and deep in sin and shame. Any theologian reading here will be horrified at my temerity, but I know I am right because I have seen this deadly pattern in theological junkies I have known. I would not imply that every theologian is a pervert, but the discipline creates a great opportunity to wander morally.
Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Give your mind and zeal to theology, and you will reap a cold dead spirit toward the lost and to the plain teaching of the Word of God. This is why Reformed theologians are classically such wretched soul winners, and Independent Baptists are more often soul winners. The Baptists don't waste their time on theology discussions. This is a trend with occasional exceptions, but I have watched this for over fifty years myself, and Reformed Christians are the last Christians to be caught trying to win souls to Christ. And, they have the most massive load of theological blarney and bull in Christendom.
When have you seen a Ph.D. from Fuller or Westminster Seminary street preaching or handing out Gospel tracts? I rest my case.
And, as always, I say that in all good Christian charity.
16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences
contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
But, the ideal way to find God's Truth is one believer, alone, reading the Bible and meditating on it, like David did.
Psalms 119:148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
David did not wake up the High Priest to discuss theology at midnight. He was eager to be alone with God.
If God had wanted us to reduce his Word to a system other than what he gave us in the 66 books, he would have inspired the Apostle Paul or John to write a systematic theology to add behind the book of The Revelation. And, in answer to R C Sproul's admission to the imperfect nature of theology, God's theology would have been error free. God the Holy Spirit simply does not need your theology to teach his saints the Truth "once delivered unto the saints" in the Bible.
If you have devoted much of your zeal as a Christian to developing a theological position, I invite you to join King David and start meditating on the Word of God, and leave theology to those who revel in man-made disciplines. Theology, confessions, doctrinal statements, and other man-made spiritual good luck charms are not worthy of a Bible believer who really claims to stand on the Rock of Salvation in the Word of God.
The Reversed Vision
40:2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set
my feet in Westminster Seminary, and established my intellectual genius.
Here is the King James Version
40:2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set
my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
Choose carefully, my friend.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE NUMBER TWO
Recently, I downloaded an out of print book to my Kindle from the Wayback Machine in Berkeley. It was supposed to be the diary of Marco Polo, and I wanted to see what he experienced traveling through Persia, India, and China. The original was in Italian of course, so the book was the translation into English by some budding genius in world affairs.
What I got was a very long book, and I thought I would have lots of fun reading about Marco's adventures and how he brought pasta from China back to Italy. Instead, the translator, who also had credentials in high thoughts and historical wonders, gave me, over and over, about two pages of Marco Polo. Then the translator gave about twenty pages of blather and bluster about what he and all his intellectual friends thought about what Marco said. This plan was repeated hundreds of times throughout the whole book. Alternative spellings of every city, what the peasants in that area ate for supper, whether the witch doctor danced the Charleston or the Texas two step, and how they buried grandma. I wanted to hear from Marco Polo, and instead I heard a lot of rubbish that was of no interest to me.
I thought of this article I wrote here. The parallel was uncanny. I had been ambushed by an intellectual who was simply too full of himself. He just knew that his vast knowledge of the subject qualified him to add a double portion of himself to Marco Polo. What his trick implied is that Marco was simply way too brief and in need of embellishment.
That is exactly what the theologian does with the Word of God. To the theologian, the Bible is way too truncated to be of use to the Christian. What is needed is a big added load of big words and high thinking. And, there is the rub. The believer who is subjected to this trick soon accepts his role as the dumb peasant who can only be edified by subjecting himself to large loads of elocution which he cannot understand.
The graphic is of Marco Polo in his Tartar military outfit.
BROTHER VAN NATTAN, YOU ARE NOT BEING FAIR TO THESE FINE THEOLOGIANS
Right. I am not called to be fair.
I am called to "war a good warfare." Thus, I deliver the ball waist high, straight across the plate. Or, for you cricket fans in the UK and Australia, I bowl it straight down the middle right at the wicket. If the bails fly, praise the Lord. That is how we win.
1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
Thus, life is not fair, and it is not my job to be fair to heretics or contrary men in scholarly robes.
2 Timothy 3:9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.