Almost daily I visit the Desiring God website. It is a great source of encouragement and edification for me. This morning I stumbled upon this video. It is a video of Noel and Talitha Piper, John Piper’s wife and daughter.
John Piper rediscovered an incredible theology called “Christian Hedonism”. It is essentially the idea that we are able to take pleasure in God and pleasure in Life because God takes pleasure in himself. It is a beautifully simple idea that can be hard for many Christians understand, but Noel Piper explains the idea through the simplicity of apple pie.
St. Augustine. The Prodigal Saint.
St. Augustine was a man who lived way back in the day (354-430AD). He was a hedonist who said before he became a Christian, “God, Grant me chastity and continence…but not yet”. However, at one point under a fig tree, God saved him. With a zeal for Christ and the Gospel, St. Augustine of Hippo rose and began preaching the Gospel. There are many things one can learn from St. Augustine, but there are three in particular that I learned.
- Truth is Knowable
- Augustine believed that we can all learn and know truth. He fought against the skeptics arguing for a foundation of truth. He argued that in the act of self-consciousness, the mind’s objective reality is known.
- All Truth Comes from God.
- While augustine did argue for truth, he understood Plato’s analogy of the cave. He understood that Man cannot know absolute truth apart while he exists in the cave. Something must release man from the cave. Augustine argues that God’s revelation to man was that release. Truth and knowledge come from God.
- The Problem of Evil and the Nature of Free Will.
- St. Augustine answered the problem of evil and explained the nature of Free will. In Augustine’s view, before the fall, Humanity had Perfect Free Will and Perfect Liberty. Man had the will to choose something and the liberty to actually carry out his will. Man had the will and liberty to do good AND to do evil. After humanity fell, man still had free will, but man lost his liberty. After the fall, man has the will to do evil, and the Liberty to do ONLY evil.
While there are many things we can learn from St. Augustine and many other doctrines that he began to systemize (Original Sin, Trinity, etc.) these are three things that I learned from him. I love his writings, and I love the story he has.
“Woe is me, I am Lost!” These are the words Isaiah cried when he first gazed upon God. There is a something to be said for the Glory of God and the lowness of man. Humility that must exist in every relationship begins with a right concept of humility before God. Jerry Bridges says:
“We cannot begin to experience humility in any other relationship until we experience a deep and profound humility in our attitude toward God.” (2)
Below are three ways we can humble ourselves before God.
- Trembling at his Word: When a man is truly humble before God, we are also humble before his Word. Acknowledging that scripture is God’s word, and that God’s word contains “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for faith in life”(1) we are acknowledging that only through God’s word can we live as we should. It throws off man’s ability and allows us to focus on God.
- God’s Grace: When man has humbled himself before God, he is acknowledging that only through God’s Grace can man do anything. Everything in and out of the world operates solely by the Grace of God. When a man realizes and understands this, he will be humble about the gifts and talents he possess.
- Serving Others: 1st Peter says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” When a man is humbled before God, he will know that the talents and abilities he possess come from God for the purpose of serving others and Glorifying God. Humility should manifest itself in the serving of others.
Pride is one of the toughest sin to conquer and yet, humility before God is essential. Isaiah’s attitude towards God is the attitude we are to have. When we are compared to God, we are lost, but when we are with God, we are saved.
How do you find that you show humility?
(1) The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges.
(2) Westminster Confession
I am currently reading a book, Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem. I have just finished the first chapter, during which, I came across a section entitled, “How should We Study Systematic Theology?”. This was a great section for me to read. I have often been a proponent of the importance of studying theology; however, I have not read very many books that outline how we should study theology and the attitudes we should have. Grudem gives the following as a guideline.
- We Should Study Theology with Prayer: One would think this is an obvious thing; however, its very easy to study theology as an academic rather than as a disciple. Our whole hearts be invested into what we are learning and we should seek guidance from God with prayer about how to approach his word. Psalm 119:18 says,“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”.
- We Should Study Theology with Humility: We should make sure that we have the correct attitude when studying theology. Too often to we study theology merely to gain ammunition for the next argument. We use our knowledge of theology to lord it over our brothers and sisters, much like the Pharisees. James 1:19-20: “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.”
- We Should Study Theology with Reason: This is a very important and often overlooked aspect of rightly studying theology. Grudem gives the example that when Jesus and the New Testament authors quote a verse from scripture, they often then draw logical conclusions. They use human reason to begin to rightly interpret scriptures. Isaac Watts says, “Reason, as to the power and principle of it, is the common gift of God to all men…”
- We Should Study Theology With Help from Others: Grudem states: We need to be thankful that God has put teachers in the church (“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third Teachers”. We should allow those with gifts of teaching to help us understand Scripture”. (Emphasis mine)
- We Should Study Theology by Collecting and Understanding All Relevant Scripture: Theology should be studied completely. If one attempts to understand a particular doctrine, than one ought to gather and understand all that scripture has to say about that doctrine. This allows man to understand the whole picture, and helps to prevent theological errors.
- We Should Study Theology With Rejoicing and Praise: Grudem says, “The study of theology is not merely a theoretical exercise of the intellect. It is the study of the living God, and the wonders of all his works in creation and redemption. We cannot study this subject dispassionately!” Psalm 19:8 says, “The precepts of the LORD are right, and rejoicing the heart.”In order to study theology we must have an attitude of rejoicing and praise. God gave us his word, and we are to rejoice in the Gift of it.
While we probably all agree with these things, and in the back of our minds, we probably knew all that Grudem said, its always good to remind oneself of the correct way to approach Truths about God. Theology is a great and wonderful thing to study, but it must be studied correctly and with the appropriate attitudes, otherwise its just a mental exercise.
What are your thoughts about theology? How do you think we should approach the subject?
SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. Copyright © 1994 by Wayne Grudem.