Deformed Theology

Bible

Fundamental to following Jesus is the understanding that He is our final authority in all matters. However, because scripture is the only ultimate way we can know what He wants, then scripture also becomes our final authority in all matters. Because subjective revelation/personal conviction can be Satan deceiving us, or us deceiving ourselves, conformity to scripture is the only test we have in order to establish whether or not something could be the Holy Spirit leading us. Any attempt to separate the authority of the Lord personally from His written Word is therefore pure deception. The senior officer of a battalion of soldiers who receives his written orders from Headquarters and then, instead of just getting on with obeying what they say, gets into a debate with himself as to whether the Commanding Officer back at HQ is his authority or the written orders he has sent out, and whether he might therefore be able to in some way go against those orders whilst still claiming that he is acting under the Commanding Officer’s authority, is not worth the uniform he’s wearing. The authority of the Commanding Officer and the authority of the written orders he sends out are, quite simply, one and the same thing.

Our Authority…

Therefore, if the Lord is our ultimate and final authority, which He is, and if He has given us His written Word in the scriptures, which He has, then anyone who thinks they can be truly under His authority whilst being in any kind of non-conformity to those same scriptures is kidding themselves. The scriptures are our written orders sent us by our Commanding Officer, and His authority and their authority are one and the same thing. Indeed, any attempt to make a distinction between them could only ever be for the reason of smuggling something into our belief system or practise that is contrary to scripture, but to which we want to give place.

…Not Our Authority…

Here’s the point: If scripture, being the written orders of our divine Commander-In-Chief, is our final authority…then absolutely nothing else is!!! Not theologians, not established doctrine, not statements of faith, not Christian books, not Pastors, Priests or Ministers, not John Calvin, not Jacob Arminius, not traditional evangelical cultural practise, not me (Aw, shucks!!! That’s too bad!!!), not anyone or anything, except the scripture itself.

…and Systematic Theology…

So let me make absolutely clear what this means regarding so-called systematic theologies: unless such are deemed to be merely a teaching aid, and nothing more, systematic theologies, of whatever doctrinal bent, are actually deceptive. And of course the reason is that it’s just so darned easy to end up reading scripture through the lens of a doctrinal system rather than the other way round. Or to put it another way, instead of judging one’s thoughts, understandings and doctrinal belief system (which is what a systematic theology is) by scripture, one actually ends up judging scripture according to one’s own doctrinal presuppositions and dogma. And of course one’s final authority then is not the Lord Jesus through His Word, but rather whatever systematic theology/doctrinal system one happens to subscribe to, and therefore merely the teachings and reasonings of whichever theologians came up with it.

The Big Change…

I reached a point many years ago when I realised that in order to explain what i thought certain verses in the Bible meant I was having to explain away certain other verses. I concluded that this had to be wrong, and so decided to stop doing it and to have a comprehensive biblical re-think. As a result I embraced the wonderful freedom of no longer needing to think that I ought to understand everything in the Bible, or that I could have the Lord God and His truth nicely wrapped up in in a little box of some pre-digested systematic theology. (Not that I had ever subscribed to any particular one!) Indeed, I actually found rest and security in the Lord in even the most inscrutable biblical mysteries and paradoxes. (It is not, for example, in any way irrational to believe, at one and the same time, in election and predestination as well as human responsibility. Neither is it to embrace the utterly perplexing mystery and paradox that there is but one God, yet Who exists in three separate Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Man, go figure that one!!!)

The Resolution…

As long as we are truly willing to surrender, and to be in obedience to, that which can be truly apprehended and understood in scripture, then we needn’t be under any compulsion to kid ourselves into pretending that we have unfathomable mysteries in God’s Word that are completely beyond us all figured out and nicely sown up. If, in your thinking, the Lord God Almighty is not exponentially and massively bigger and more mysterious and inscrutable than any doctrinal statement you may subscribe to concerning Him, then there is something profoundly wrong with your understanding of the concept of both the Divine and the Infinite.

The trouble, sadly, with systematic theology is its enduring tendency to not let what the Bible teaches stand in the way of a good doctrine.

May the Lord preserve us from the 21st Century Deformers!

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Deformed Theology

  1. I agree that it is a wonderful blessing not to be bound by the statements of men. I have such a set of statements upon my own site but they have never been prescriptive for anyone nor hopefully ever so. I live in a town where Reformers are everywhere, touting Calvin the murderer and reading his writings and carrying about his books. Ahhh, I’m sick to death of such things. Is God Himself incapable of revealing what we need to know? Or are we just so impatient with those we desire to help know the truth that we must utilize such a shortcut?

    I don’t want to be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. I’ll share the gospel, my own personal faith and at times some of my present or past experiences. Ultimately though, each must come to God alone, learn of Him and allow Him to establish their own convictions.

    When men follow men rarely do they remain faithful to them or to God. On the other hand, when Jesus rules in a mans heart, he knows what he believes, what God has taught Him and presses forward with each new revelation. Not new revelation as to “the faith,” but to each student in their journey with the Lord and learning more of Him.

    On many occasions people I know have attempted to separate Jesus from His Words. They wrongly associate what Paul calls “the letter that kills” in 1 Corinthians 3:6 to the Bible itself instead of the old covenant. In doing so, they also separate God the Holy Spirit from the Bible as well- as if they could possibly contradict. That is not good news whatsoever, nor could such be true.

    Praise God we know what we need to know. And thank God for those who stir us up by way of reminder, those things our Lord has rightly revealed in His time and in His way.

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    • What you say is so true. The verse you mention in 1 Cor 3 has got to be one of the most misapplied verse in our modern times. You are of course absolutely correct to say that it is simply a contrast between the Old and New Covenants, yet people who want to go against scripture in whatever regard try to make out that it is Paul teaching that even things he and the other New Testament writers taught in scripture can be overridden and ignored should the Holy Spirit so lead. They therefore have a supposed justification for being unbiblical when it suits them. How very sad it must make the Lord that His people should do this!

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  2. I’ve always thought that a doctrinal statement (or statement of faith) was descriptive rather than prescriptive. It would be a way of saying, “This is what I understand the message of the Bible to be.” In my associations, these documents are use to identify theological tendencies as a basis for greater unity. Surely, there is a danger that people might simply conform to somebody else’s doctrinal statement in order to be accepted rather than conforming to the Word of God in order to accept and be accepted of God. (Does anybody actually READ these things? Don’t most of us just skim them in looking for a couple of shibboleths?)

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    • Thanks for the comment. You’re absolutely right. As long as we make sure we communicate that we are trinitarian and believe in the divinity of Jesus, salvation by faith, repentance and godly living, the authority of scripture and the future return of Jesus, then I guess the non-negotiables are pretty much covered. Certainly a bit shorter than the usual ‘official’ statement of faith!

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