I started back to school last week and this semester I am taking my last two first year courses: World of the New Testament and the big one: Systematic Theology. I have been half dreading this course since I started taking this degree and I am not quite sure why. Perhaps because it has two textbooks that total more than 800 pages this semester! It covers the basic doctrines of the Christian faith: What is the Trinity? How do we know what we know about God? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross? How does His death actually remove my sins?
All these questions (and more) all answered straight from the Bible. The idea of Systematic Theology bothers me and I am not sure why. I guess I balk at the idea that Theology is all that Systematic. I grew up thinking that there was a chapter and verse to each of these massive questions and once I knew what that verse was then I would be set. As I have grown and matured I have found Theology to be a bit more mysterious. That is not to say that there aren’t verses that treat some of these big questions. The Bible reveals and makes known God and God’s nature. The Bible addresses the big questions I’m just not that sure it’s all systematic.
The first doctrine we will talk about is Revelation: How has God made himself known to us. Think about this for a second. All that we know about God was revealed to us by God Himself. We didn’t find any of this out on our own. He told us everything we know. We were never going to be able to know anything about God without Him revealing it. One of my text books puts it this way:
God has taken the initiative and has freely made known the divine identity and purpose. In brief, the knowledge given in revelation is not simply knowledge ‘that’, or knowledge ‘about’, but knowledge ‘of’.
Of His own initiative God calls out Abram in Genesis 12; God makes a promise to Abram and Sarai in Genesis 17. God discloses his divine name in Exodus 3: 14. God demonstrates His character in liberating Israel, in handing down the commandments, in disciplining Israel and speaking through the prophets but a full understanding of God is never apprehended by mankind. Though God is truly disclosed in these events, God does not cease to be a mystery after the event of revelation. God never becomes a controllable object or a manipulable possession. He is known but mysteriously so. You can learn something new about God every day and you will never know it all
Moses could only see the backside of God (Ex. 33: 12 – 23); Elijah heard the voice of God not in the wind, earthquake or fire but in the small voice (1 Kings 19: 11). God is studied systematically but the mystery of God and his nature is never fully appreciated. It continues to unfold, without end.