I’ve found that most Christians are uncomfortable with the word theology, and even more uncomfortable with the science of systematic theology. People do this for various reasons but the fact that most people want nothing to do with theology is evidence that theology has fallen on hard times in our generation. In fact, systematic theology used to be called ‘dogmatics.’ Today the word ‘dogmatic’ is used to describe someone who is close-minded, arrogant, or opinionated.
This mindset is so prevalent right now for three reasons. Today I’ll give the first, and pick up with the next two on Monday:
Reason 1: The first reason people reject systematic theology is a reason that largely comes from outside the Church. This reason is the philosophy known as existentialism.
Existentialism believes there are certain truths we can know but there is no one absolute truth for all mankind. This is where the phrase ‘There are no absolute truths’ comes from. You’ve probably also heard someone say, ‘What’s true for you is true for you, that doesn’t mean it’s true for me.’ Existentialism also teaches there are many purposes man can discover but there is no one grand purpose for which all mankind was made. Rather, the world is full of one thing – chaos. And because the world is full of chaos, no one can find a true, genuine system that makes sense for everyone. Because of this ‘systems’ are frowned upon, or thought of as inauthentic, suspicious, or fake.
Well, as you can imagine the Bible strongly disagrees with this reasoning.
The Bible does teach that there is an absolute truth, and that this truth is not relative to each person, which makes it true no matter where you are or who you are. The Bible does teach that there is one grand purpose for all mankind. The Bible doesn’t teach the world is full of chaos, but that the world (though fallen) is full of order.
Because of these things, Christians throughout history have been eager to put the truths of Scripture into a system in an effort to understand it’s teaching better. But when Existentialism came along, and gained its massive influence, systems fell out of favor. Yet you and I can see the irony here because we live in world where we’re surrounded by systems. Computers wouldn’t run without operating systems, cars wouldn’t take us to dinner or take us to the mall if it weren’t for detailed mechanical systems. TV’s wouldn’t work if it weren’t for their intricate electrical display systems. We are constantly plugged into this system or that system.
It’s ironic that we think ‘systems’ are inauthentic because we’re always interacting with systems. Without systems life couldn’t function as it does now, and without systematic theology we couldn’t make sense of the all the information the Bible gives us about God.