Theology is the study of God. Unfortunately, theology has mostly become “speculation about God based on our goofy thoughts.”
Theology, as it has been codified, is partially helpful, partially a complete waste, and increasingly destructive.
Bad definitions of theology focus on our own thinking. Good definitions talk about a “science” or “study of God.” This is good, as long as the textbook is Scripture.
Science in our day, although widely celebrated, is not done often in the public sector. Bill Nye is who most think of when we think science. That is too bad.
Much of science today is tied in with politics and philosophical axes to grind.
Much good science is being done today, you just won’t ever hear about it. Most publicly consumed science is sensationalist philosophy in a lab coat. One might say the talking-head in a lab coat is the modern day wolf in sheep’s clothing.
I would like to give you some quotes from an actual real scientist. Richard Feynman was one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project. He was a formative thinker in the development of the computer among other sciency things.
If theology is a science, let’s do it the way a scientist would do science. Observe:
“Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, what is not known, to what extent things are known (for nothing is known absolutely), how to handle doubt and uncertainty, what the rules of evidence are, how to think about things so that judgments can be made, how to distinguish truth from fraud, and from show.”
“Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question – to doubt – to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained.”
“Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way. Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
I like his approach. Feynman is not a Christian, that I know of. He thinks that religion is what people do to avoid dealing with doubt. He said, “Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.”
Religion, according to Feynman, is what you go to in order to resolve mysteries, thus it eliminates curiosity, wonder, and science.
Although I’d probably disagree with that notion, I see why he views things that way.
One of the things Feynman warns against is pseudoscience and the proliferation of popular science dressed up to impress and push an agenda. He died in 1988 and would be in shock as to where science has gotten today.
Anyway, back to our point, theology at its best is a science. Feynman says science only works when we doubt experts and long-held assumptions.
Theology should be the same. yet we see the same thing happening in theology as we do in most areas of science: authority figures answering all questions, immediate repercussions if you question long-held beliefs, group think, more philosophy than faithfulness to truth, etc.
This underlying doubt of experts should drive you to examine your doctrine. Are you believing what the Bible says, or what a bunch of dead guys thought up?
The Reformers have Five Solas. We’ve examined several of these solas and come to the conclusion that they don’t make much sense unless you buy into their underlying philosophy.
If you doubt theology and doubt experts, questioning their conclusions will be as natural as breathing.
If, however, you trust authority and think they are smarter than you, then you won’t question and you’ll go on believing people’s opinions until you die.
Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. Notice faith doesn’t come by hearing people’s opinions about God’s Word.
Think. Examine. Question. Doubt. Test the spirits. The Scientific Method was actually invented by the Apostle Paul hundreds of years before it was codified in science books:
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
“Prove” means to test. Test stuff. Start by testing what all the theological authorities have been spouting for hundreds of years. Hold to what passes the test. Know the Scripture. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Do the work. The unexamined faith is not worth believing.