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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Systematic Theology and the Talmud

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eagleswings
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Joined: 2003/12/30
Posts: 297
Connecticut, USA

 Re: Systematic Theology and the Talmud

Hi Jeff,

Just noticed your thread today. T.Austin-Sparks would have been delighted with your title.


“(There is) a principle which is implicit in the whole purpose and argument of the letter (to the Hebrews). It is that of how life is preserved and maintained. This is one of the most difficult matters to convey unless there is a real measure of spiritual understanding, and it might well suffer in the same way as did the "many things" regarding Melchizedek in chapter 5:11. However, the spiritual situation is such today as to justify every attempt at solving it.

“The first phase of the problem is this; seeing that there is a sum of Christian doctrine and practice embodied in the New Testament, and that certain clearly defined beliefs and practices represent the substance or foundation of Christianity: that these are not to be added to or taken from: is it possible that Christianity should not become a set system, tradition, or form? There are some phrases in the New Testament which would seem to imply that it is such. It would seem impossible to avoid this when once the first newness, novelty, and wonder have passed, and age succeeds age in Christian teaching, work and practice. But to accept such a conclusion and position is really to violate the most vital and crucial facts in New Testament Christianity, and to agree to a state of things which is a caricature and denial or contradiction of Christ. If Christianity were a system of truths and practices then the above-mentioned result would be inevitable. But it is not! It is a living Person, known only in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, and not known all at once, but to be known by continuous and ever-growing revelation of the Holy Spirit.”

T. Austin-Sparks “GOD HATH SPOKEN”
(from chapter 4: ‘How Life is Maintained. The Principle of the New Covenant)


What's the "other thread"?

Roger







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Roger P.

 2004/1/22 19:57Profile
Agent001
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Joined: 2003/9/30
Posts: 386
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 Re:

I admire T. Austin-Sparks very much. I think he correctly emphasised on the life of Christ as the essence of Christianity. Without a vital and living faith, all knowledge would be in vain.

However, having been involved with Christian groups more or less in the tradition of T. Austin-Sparks and Watchman Nee (and I still am involved with it), I think there is always the danger of overemphasising the subjective to the neglect of the objective. In my own experience, I have seen church splits in these groups often, because all parties thought they have the direct "revelation" from the Spirit.

I would prefer to say that there are two aspects that must be balanced: the [i]timeless truth[/i] in the [i]objective[/i] Word of God forms the basis of our knowledge [i]about[/i] God, and is therefore worthy of diligent and systematic study. On the other hand, for the Word to be living to us and therefore applicable to our lives, we need the illumination of the Spirit to lead us into the [i]subjective[/i] experience of God by his [i]timely truth[/i] -- living word spoken specifically to address our individual condition and situation.

Dismissing systematic theolgy as merely a human enterprise is not too helpful, because everyone (including Sparks) have a system of beliefs about God and the Christian faith (which by definition [i]is[/i] systematic theology). It is not helpful to ask whether systematic theology should be done or not, because we are all doing it consciously or unconsciously; the proper question to ask is whether our own system of beliefs is biblical or not.

Systematic theology is good when it has as its foundation, a comprehensive examination of the full counsel of the Scripture. We examine the history of Christian thought in order to learn from the experiences and mistakes of Christians in the past (there is really no [i]new[/i] revelation or heresies, because chances are you will find similar strands of thoughts in history!). Finally, we rely upon the illumination of the Spirit to find application of the timeless Word in a timely manner in our contemporary context.


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Sam

 2004/1/23 6:09Profile
rookie
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Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4794


 Re:

My purpose in this thread is to exhort others to travel the path that I have found. The exhortation is: believe in God's promise to us that He will teach us the truth. This is the promise of the New Coventant. The power of the New Covenant life comes through the revelation of Scripture and how it applies in each believer's life. The believer will experience circumstances in life which Scriptures teach. Many of the parables which Jesus taught become real events in the believer's life at one time or another. We learn line upon line, precept upon precept, here alittle there alittle. This is the substance of our relationship with our Savior.

What I have seen in the church of today is no different than the religious practices of the Jews during Christ's time of ministry. They had the talmud, and in a similar way the church places much weight on men's attempts to explain how Scripture is not in conflict. I in the past have been tormented by Romans chapter 3. I have known what it means to desire to remain blind to what Scripture is teaching us. I see that same struggle in one form or another in most of the believer's I know. I know the torment. I have also experienced the freedom of surrendering to the Holy Spirit who strives with my fleshly spirit. I have found that as I surrender to His leading the Scriptures that once seemed to be in conflict now line up as the stars in the sky. I have seen a truth which in my flesh could never comprehend.

I write this to exhort others to look to God for the peace that only He can give. Believe in the promise, God speaks!

In Christ
Jeff


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Jeff Marshalek

 2004/1/23 7:56Profile
Agent001
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Joined: 2003/9/30
Posts: 386
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 Re:

Jeff,

I enjoyed this dialogue. I have strongly emphasised the need for balance between the study of systematic theology and a vital faith with God because of my own experience too. I hope you'd also understand where I am coming from.

I came from a church tradition that puts theology and living experience of God in great opposition. We emphasised on learning directly from the scripture and the Spirit's leading to the truth, and condemned the study of theology as a human enterprise, as human opinion, as head knowledge with no life.

Unfortunately, some adverse effects slowly made themselves manifest. As we cut ourselves off from the rich spiritual wealth of godly saints in the past, an attitude of spiritual elitism developed. We thought we were understanding the scripture afresh free from any "human opinion" and theology, but in reality, we have simply replaced with our own assumed theology. This led to many other problems that I shall not elaborate here.

In retrospection, I think my church tradition would have been healthier if we did not throw the baby away with the bathing water. I think we were on the right track when we sought after God himself and his Word. However, we would have fared better if we did not completely reject the role of the mind. We would have learned from the mistakes of saints in the past in the history of Christian thought.

Our focus should be on Christ alone. We should rely on the Spirit to guide us into his truth. At the same time, God has endowed us with the gift of reasoning, which was blinded by sin. However, as the redeemed, we could make godly use of this gift once again. Therefore, I think it is possible for a Christ-redeemed Spirit-empowered believer to engage in the study of theology for the glory of God.

I have seen the damages done by both dry head knowledge void of life and zeal for God without knowledge. Let's beware of both.


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Sam

 2004/1/26 6:02Profile
rookie
Member



Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4794


 Re:

Hi Agent 001,

You wrote: "In retrospection, I think my church tradition would have been healthier if we did not throw the baby away with the bathing water..."

You talked about problems, ie "an attitude of spiritual elitism," manifesting themselves. Would you please share the nature of the problems which manifested themselves in your church?

In Christ
Jeff


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Jeff Marshalek

 2004/1/26 7:30Profile
Agent001
Member



Joined: 2003/9/30
Posts: 386
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 Re: Let me try...

Jeff:

I think ultimately all problems relate to the works of the flesh. It is easy for our sinful nature to fall into the condition of the church in Laodicea. We think we are rich, yet we are really poor. We think we see, yet we are really blind. We think we are spiritual, yet we are really walking according to the flesh.

One problem that I have seen: we associated theology with "head knowledge", study of theology with "being soulish" -- we said, "that is all head knowledge, there is no life in it!" or we said, "that is the Law. The letter kills." Eventually there was a condescending attitude, a holier-than-thou attitude towards ministers or Christians who equip themselves with theology.

I tell you, it is very difficult to tell people with such spiritual pride to acknowledge a problem or mistake, especially when they have wholly rejected the value of theology. Everything other people said becomes "man's opinion," and they apparently believed that what they know are all from "pure God's revelation".

They thought they were "going directly to pure Scripture", completely free from any theological bias or framework, and therefore they were always right. But the fact is, everyone who studies the Scripture do consciously or unconsciously have preconceived concepts that needs to be affirmed or corrected by the Word and the Spirit. I think the study of theology is one of the tools that could be used by the Spirit.

I don't think I am explaining myself too well. I just don't think systematic theology is intrinsically evil, although it does have the potential of becoming "Talmud" if we do not put it in its proper place. On the other hand, the flesh could creep into even the "spiritual" persons in other ways.

May the Spirit reign in all of us so that His will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.


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Sam

 2004/1/28 5:00Profile
rookie
Member



Joined: 2003/6/3
Posts: 4794


 Re:

Hi Agent 001,

Thankyou for your insights. This internet thing has ministered to me in so many ways. It has been a time for developing my thoughts and trying to communicate them with other believers. This website is a rich environment for sharing and bouncing off one another the thoughts and desires that God has put into us.

I agree with your statement: "I tell you, it is very difficult to tell people with such spiritual pride to acknowledge a problem or mistake." Paul corrects: "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" 1 Corinthians 4:7 Pride of the flesh manifests itself in many ways. Here Paul writes to this fact, if you have truly received the understanding from God you would not boast. You would have realized that nothing in you could have brought forth what God Himself has given you. So humility should be the fruit not pride. Paul, in another place, talked about the afflicition that God would not remove from him. It was to keep him from becoming prideful of his relationship with God. So this danger of spiritual pride is a real problem that can only be held in check by the Scriptures and the discerning of spirits. I am guilty, even within this thread, because I have shared my systematic theology, just like Husley wrote.

In Christ
Jeff


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Jeff Marshalek

 2004/1/28 6:42Profile
Agent001
Member



Joined: 2003/9/30
Posts: 386
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 Re:

Jeff:

I have learned much from the forum too, as well as from your insights. For instance, I like an earlier quote you cited by Paris Reidhead.

Quote:
Paris said he has no problem with man's attempt to understand God's ways, but his theology must not deny his responsibity to God.

It's true, iron does sharpen iron. :)


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Sam

 2004/1/29 3:44Profile





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