This question is really very elementary. Theology is our attempt to understand God’s Word. We do it be meditating on the Word day and night (Psalm 1). Theology also requires that we properly interpret Scripture, which is pleasing to our Lord:
· Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15; ESV)
Although this answer is simple, we tend to slip into other ways of doing theology. For the first several years of my Christian walk, I had interpreted Scripture through my distorted lens. I tried to understand Scripture in a way that would enable me to feel good about myself, not thinking for a moment that there was anything wrong with doing theology in this manner.
If my interpretation felt right to me, I’d embrace it. If it didn’t, I would either try to interpret the verse in question in a more comfortable way, or I would just ignore it.
I wasn’t reading Scripture any differently than before I was saved. Ethnically a Jew and also a Zionist living in Israel, my favorite book quickly became the Book of Joshua. Why? Because my people were victorious over the others, and that made me feel good!
However, the next book was Judges. Expecting more of the same ego-enhancement, I became very disappointed with this book and put the Hebrew Scriptures down.
Many others are doing the same thing. We comb the Scriptures for support for our own conclusions. One theologian taught that Jesus had admitted that He was wrong about the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15). At first, He thought her unworthy to receive anything from Him. However, after seeing her faith, He decided elsewise.
From this, the misguided theologian concluded that Scripture is often wrong or that the truth has evolved as Jesus’ understanding had evolved. Ultimately, we have to decide. Consequently, we have been made the judges of Scripture, instead of Scripture judging us. Our judgment reigns supreme.
Scripture is also made into the servant of our lifestyles. We coerce it to say the very things that will justify our lifestyles. Christians who believe in socialism or communism exalt the few verses that show that the disciples had everything in common and ignore the many other verses that make appeals to individuals who have their own resources.
Those who are living alternative sexual lifestyles present Jesus as the ultimate radical who challenged the status quo. His foes was the judgmental religious leaderful. They excluded, while Jesus received all into community. Meanwhile, they neglect the fact that Jesus often called the sinner to repent. They also ignore the fact that Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees wasn’t that they were judgmental, but that they refused to even believe Moses:
· Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:45-47)
A theology which is faithful to the Word of God seeks to reconcile verse with verse in order to understand Scripture in a coherent and unified way. However, too much theology is performed to reconcile Scripture with the prevailing culture.
Theistic evolutionists (TE) claim that there is no possible conflict between Scripture and evolution. They argue that these two sources of knowledge cannot conflict because they are focused on different things. Evolution’s concern is the physical world, while the Bible’s focus is on the spiritual world. Conflict resolved!
However, the Bible teaches a lot about the physical world – teachings that go against evolution, like God speaking the world into existence or the introduction of sin and death through Adam and Eve. Doesn’t this violate the TE’s claim?
According to the TE, even though the Bible talks about the physical world, its main concern is spiritual, as if it is possible to separate the two. The TE goes further by claiming that the Bible speaks wrongly about the physical world because it has imbibed deeply from the errant cosmology of the Ancient Near East. Here is an example the TE uses to denigrate what the Bible teaches about the physical world:
· Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. (Psalm 93:1)
How will it never be moved? Here, the TE imposes his Scripturally depreciating interpretation to support his claim that the Bible isn’t interested in the physical world. He claims that the Psalmist wrote under the misunderstanding that our earth will not be moved because it sits on a pedestal, as the ancients had erroneously believed.
However, the TE ignores the fact that Scripture also says that the righteous shall not be moved. Why not? Because he is stuck on a pedestal? Of course, not! Rather, he will not be “moved” in the sense that he will not be destroyed . Likewise, the earth will not be destroyed.
The TE and many others coerce Scripture into agreeing with them, just as I had done. I do not do this anymore. It is not because I am more spiritual or faithful than others. I am not. Instead, it is because I have been so chastened that I only want God’s unadulterated truth. I need to know that I am walking in His light.
Theology, therefore, is not simply a mental exercise. If it was, we could learn wisdom from a book. However, wisdom is a gift from God. It comes through humbling and painful circumstance:
· The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 15:31-33)
Who will listen to reproof; who solicits criticism? Only the one who has been humbled and comes to despair in his own judgment. Only such a person is ready for the “fear of the Lord” – an openness to His wisdom and correction.
I had “ignored instruction,” thinking that I had the answers. He chastened me with myself and my own foolishness, allowing me to reap the consequences of my arrogance. He humbled me in order to lift me up. The Psalmist David had confessed:
· It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:71-72)
When we are afflicted, we grab any life-preserver thrown our way. The Word was given to me, and it now has more value than anything else. Therefore, I meditate on it continually, as the Lord instructed Joshua:
· This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8)
How do we understand this Book? Once again, it is not just a mental activity. Theology must be done on “our knees,” meaning that we have to cry out to our Lord for His wisdom to properly understand. And He is able to provide it:
· Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” (Luke 24:44-46)
Since He can open our minds to understand His truths, we must be in prayer, lest our own interests and agendas overtake us.