Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Need for Systematic Theology

The German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg published an essay in 1991 called, “The Need for Systematic Theology.” He writes, “The content of truth that is inherent in the documents of the tradition has to be determined again and again, because in each historical situation a new effort is needed to distinguish the truth of the gospel…from the evanescent forms of language and thought that at one time served to express such abiding truth.”[1]  In other words, we have to keep exploring our faith. We have to keep pushing it further. We cannot take things at face-value. Our context is different from the context of Charlottesville twenty or fifty years ago. We keep pushing our faith so that we can grow and come to a deeper understanding of our relationship with God.
Theology revisits old questions. As Christians, we can ask, “Is the Holy Spirit saying something new?” If the answer is, “yes,” then we do not indict the past. We recognize God’s continuing engagement with the world. And, we give thanks! For God still loves the world! The world still needs this good news.
In the Gospel of John, we read, “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you and example, that you also should do as I have done to you.’” There is a lot to unpack in these verses. Theology provides us with tools to better understand the meaning. 
The content of truth has not changed. Jesus is the Christ and sets an example for us to follow. But, we need to determine that truth and how it applies to our lives again and again. The lens through which we see the world today is different from the lenses we used when we were children. Likewise, the lens we use today is different than 100 or 1,000 years ago. We engage with God and God can handle our questions. We can push further and dig deeper. If you ever want to discuss one of these big questions, please come and see me. I love theological questions and searching for the answers with friends. I look forward to continuing the journey with you and growing in faith with you.



[1] Wolfhart Pannenberg, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991).

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