We love ideas and we believe that they have huge consequences. We live in times that dismiss or condescend to deep ideas. They are “abstract” and “academic.” Dirty words. People don’t have time for big thoughts – and they still have huge consequences. Ideas are stubborn that way. They don’t even need to be noticed, to govern everything. Today, many elementary school kids bake Mayflower travel-bread or make tall, black hats with buckles, when they are taught about the journey of the Pilgrims to the New World. This – we are told – is more “hands-on” and life-integrated than explaining the world-crafting ideas that brought them (or drove them) here.
Relevance (how does it fit in my life), pragmatism (what will it do that I want done), and propriety (will it make anybody uncomfortable) have become the measure of the good of an idea (within and without the Christian Church). As a result, it is fashionable to simplify confessions of doctrinal beliefs to brief, bulleted lists of broad affirmations, stated in a breezy font and phrase (with assurances that a more complete and comprehensive theological document can be found at the link below, somewhere in the by-laws, or in a dusty file drawer in that cabinet – with all the old hymnals stacked on top of it).
Don’t misunderstand, there is no virtue in the dreary, dense, and dogmatic (to every detail) language of many – old and new – doctrinal books, sermons, or documents. Much good would come of truth and faith being presented more often with beauty, winsomeness, and as much plain clarity as enormous and eternal realities permit. And there is nothing more “relevant” than reality being sought and declared on its own terms.
I am not promoting the accelerated production of thick-volumed systematic theologies. There are enough of these to fill libraries. They have their value and place, and a few have proven to be priceless gifts to God’s people through the centuries. I have no objection to our beliefs being gathered and well-ordered for the sake of reference and outlined instruction, but the breathtaking truths of God’s great Story – of His glory and grace and gladness – are almost certain to be distorted or diminished by forcing Biblical splendor into standardized outlines and under headings that are more of human construction than divine (with long lists of proof texts, often having little to do – when looked up – with the issue at hand).
Theology will be systematized (we’ve done a small bit of it ourselves in our Declaration of Faith at the button below), but I praise every student who insists that systematics will only be allowed to emerge 1.) after the hard work of “exegetical theology” has given full (ongoing) attention to even the smallest Biblical details and 2.) after the rich narrative of “Biblical theology” has expanded our vision to set it all in context and connect it to the long, unified Story-line of everything that is.
So, the study of God, His ways, and His wonders is far too grand to fit in a small statement, far too life-transforming to store in a file drawer, far too extraordinary to describe only in a book or a story or a song or a prayer or a painting or a creed – but it will certainly be a worthy and wealthy endeavor to spend the rest of our lives using all of these, and more, to give it our best shot.
And let me rudely cut off any protests that you are “not one for theology” or are one who “has more of an appetite for the practical, applied, real-life stuff, than for divisive and dusty doctrine.” You, my friend, are a full-blown and continual theologian. You have detailed convictions about every little thing (whether you’ve ever thought about them or not) and every single direction and doing and desire of your life is governed precisely by everything that you believe – whether accidentally or whole-heartedly. We are all theologians – some eagerly, some poorly, some obliviously, all with great limitations – but all unavoidably. You and I believe things about God, life, and everything. What we believe about these things defines everything.
So, what do we at EGM and Grace Church believe? We are in thankful and essential agreement with the orthodox, evangelical, reformation, and classically protestant confessions of the Christian church through the centuries. Grateful agreement, because through them we reap the benefits of faithful men and women who have devoted themselves to know and announce God’s truth for generations. Essential (that is – in essence) agreement, because we certainly don’t agree with every statement of every confession and we are not offended in the slightest to be sure that they wouldn’t always agree with us either.
So these are some thoughts on theology, offered to ask you to consider learning along with us. Come explore with us. Feel free to check out our Declaration of Faith, track along as we introduce our take on the Big Ideas of our faith through the texts, videos, and messages that will be posted one by one at the blog and more permanently gathered under the Big Ideas button. We will speak boldly and you will discover what we think; but what we eagerly shout here will reveal our central passions, not necessarily our boundaries of fellowship. We like lots of people who disagree with us. Sometimes they even like us.
Everything you read, hear or see at this site will expose our ideas and our deepest convictions. When they are good, our ideas will magnify God, cherish Christ, and point the way to permanent joy.