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THEOLOGY > Theological Method  


What is the proper perspective of Theology—God or Christ, Theology Proper or Christology? What should be the center of the theological system: the Trinitarian God or the Person and Work of Christ? What determines and guides theological investigation and reflection: the God of Genesis 1:1 or the Word of John 1:1? Perhaps the last question seems irreverent, but it focuses upon the crucial problem: What is the point of reference in theological study? Is it the Trinity or one of the Persons of the Trinity?

At issue is the locus of theological inquiry and the resulting organization and explanation of Biblical teaching. Is Biblical study and theological writing to be in terms of God or in terms of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Is a theology based upon God too mystical and heavenly, or as some would say too metaphysical? Is a theology based upon the Son or the Spirit too limiting and narrow, creating too much of a restricted framework for doing theology? Should the investigation be in terms of God or one of the specific Persons of the Trinity, or perhaps should the study be in terms of some other topic, such as Law/Grace, the Covenants, or the Kingdom motif?

To argue that a center in Theos tends to metaphysical thoughts and gives undue emphasis to transcendence is an irrelevant point, when Theos is at the center of the Biblical Revelation. It is to raise an issue that is not an issue in the Scriptures. Beginning with the first verse, the Bible affirms God, expounds God, and interprets all of reality in terms of God. In Genesis God is declared and His Creation is stated, and in the book of Revelation the City of God descends to the new earth so God can dwell with His people. God is mentioned in sixty-five of the sixty-six books, the book of Esther being the only exception; but even there the control of God in the affairs of men is clearly depicted. Throughout Scripture the reader is confronted with God and His doings. The Bible is about God—He is the crux of Revelation.

Since the Bible is about God, it seems that all of theology should be conducted in terms of and with reference to the God who has revealed Himself as Creator and Redeemer, and who is Sovereign in all things. If the Scriptures assume and present God as He is in Himself and by what He does, then theology should assume and present God in the same manner. Should not the focal point of Revelation be the focal point of theology? If God is the heart of the study of the Scriptures, then what should be the starting point and axis when constructing a theology?

Should an investigation be initiated in the Old Testament, or is the New Testament the place to begin? If one begins with God as the Scriptures do, then where should you begin in Scripture? Just as the Scriptures begin with God so the Scriptures begin with the creation of man, followed by an exposition of his sin, then the accomplishment by the Messiah of man’s redemption, and finally with the conclusion of all things.  Thus Scripture reflects the following sequence of historical events (Creation – Fall – Redemption – Consummation), and this logical and sequential presentation is pleasing to man’s rational thinking. To follow the same sequence in constructing a theology is to establish an order that is consistent with Revelation, and that also assists in establishing a sound theology regarding  all topics related to man and his future.

Theology should, therefore, begin with God and His Revelation of His creating activity, then move to man and his sin, Christ and His redemption, the nature and life of the Church, and conclude with the topic of eschatology. So the order of topics would be as follows: Theology (God), Epistemology (Bible), Anthropology (Man), Hamartiology (Sin), Christology (Christ), Soteriology (Salvation), Ecclesiology (Church), and Eschatology (Last Things). While this sequence is true to the progressive development in the Scriptures, it also provides a vehicle for treating any topic in a comprehensive manner, drawing on all of Scripture for the discussing of any topic in Scripture.

The foundation for theology is laid with a discussion of God and His Word: God is and God has spoken (see: Foundations). With God there is a basis for theology and with the Bible there is justification for epistemology. Man’s creation and subsequent fall must be considered, laying the base for all later revelations concerning man’s nature, his predicament, and his hope. Christ and His redemption follow naturally, with His anticipation in the Old Testament and His accomplishment in the New Testament. The person and work of Christ is for the purpose of securing a people for Him, known as the Church. Lastly, it is revealed that all things will not continue as they are, nor is there an endless cycle that repeats itself—there is a consummation that introduces man to eternity.

To begin the study with God and move sequentially through the topics of Scripture utilizing the progressive development of Scripture while bring all of Scripture to bear on each topic seems appropriate for several reasons:

* one, it is true to the approach of the Scriptures which begins with God and concludes with the consummation;

* two, the nature of God and His revelation are foundational to a proper understanding of the later developments regarding man and his redemption;

* three, progressive revelation would seem to dictate that the proper place to begin is at the beginning, with the understanding that every verse of Scripture is interpreted by all the verses of Scripture;

* four, for the theologian to begin with the New Testament in order to escape the stigma of an original man and woman is to pick and choose what is vital in the early chapters of Genesis—science should not intimidate the theologian regarding the historicity of the creation account;

* five, if the concepts of “image” and “soul” are vital to a proper understanding of man, then the beginning point must be the account in Genesis—it is inconceivable that the understanding of these concepts should be initiated in the New Testament rather than in the Old Testament;

* six, anthropology should precede soteriology; if this is done, then two dominant themes appear: the concept of the image and the question of the soul; “image” focuses upon man in relationship to God, while “soul” draws attention to the animate feature of man’s existence as opposed to inanimate; in these two concepts there is established something of man’s vertical relationship and his horizontal being, both of which relate to soteriology;

* seven, man should be considered as man, before he is considered as fallen man or as redeemed man; the point of beginning should be the Garden of Eden not the hill of crucifixion; the study should begin in Genesis not in the Gospels; surely, sin and redemption cannot be properly comprehended and interpreted without a foundational understanding of the creation and sin of man.

See: Progressive and Comprehensive

See: Theology and the Bible

See: Question of Methodology, The Question of Evidence, and Significance of Truth

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