Seminary Ramblings

Updates from life at seminary

Theological Shopping

As I study the Scriptures and the great teachers and confessions of the church, I have my theological views refined and redefined. What I am finding is that I am a bit of an odd amalgamation of different traditions; a little bit from here, a little bit from there. On one level this makes me nervous. It makes me nervous because it seems to me that far too many biblical scholars and exegetes today self-consciously attempt to write from outside of any tradition, for fear of being inhibited by strict confessional boundaries. I, for one, believe this to be a bit silly and not entirely possible. While our traditions and confessions must be open to revision in light of God’s word, I generally find theologians and exegetes who write self-consciously from within a tradition to be the most profitable to read (ex: Michael Horton, Gerhard Forde, etc.). These men write from within a tradition not primarily to defend the tradition for tradition’s sake, but because they believe the tradition is biblically warranted. To widen the circle a bit, I also appreciate those theologians and exegetes who write self-consciously for the church (ex: D.A. Carson, Tom Schreiner, etc.). It’s the “academic theologians” who don’t focus on either of these things that make me nervous.

All that by way of introduction though. What I am getting at is that it makes me a bit nervous to not fall exactly into any tradition because then it seems like I can just make up a system of theology for myself. A little bit from here; a little bit from there. But these doctrines have been debated for hundreds of years and most theological systems are what they are because belief in one doctrine tends to logically lead to belief in another. Nevertheless, I like to pull from a variety of sources.

Lately I have been reading about the early Anabaptists and some of the writings of Menno Simons (think Mennonites). While I would usually prefer to spiritually trace the Baptist side of me to the British Particular (read Reformed) Baptists of the 17th century, I’m finding that I don’t mind tracing my theological heritage somewhat to those brave and persecuted Anabaptists of the 16th century. They (at least the best ones) focused on the strict and utter authority of the Bible, the radical nature of discipleship, believer’s baptism only, the purity of the church, and the separation of church and state. Those are things I can get behind.

However, I also love Calvin and get on board with most of him until he comes to the sacraments (and even there I am pretty much on board with him on the Lord’s Supper, it’s just baptism that I shy away from). I also love Luther, and am largely in agreement with his “Two Kingdoms” which must not be conflated, as well as the necessity of distinguishing the law and the gospel.

But then I’ve got disagreements with everyone too. For instance, I’m not so sure I agree when the Westminster Confession calls God’s moral law the same thing as the Ten Commandments. Actually….I have a lot of questions about the Ten Commandments and the place of the Mosaic Law. I also have a lot of questions about sanctification. How should we talk about it? Is it just sinking into the reality of our justification (to use Lutheran-speak), or is there more to it than that?

These are some of the questions that vex me. At the end of the day however, I rest assured that my theology is not perfect and need not be perfect, as long as I can confess with the Heidelberg Catechism:

Question: What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Amen.

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3 thoughts on “Theological Shopping

  1. Michael Stalcup on said:

    Thanks Erik. This a timely post for me as I am in the midst of my first seminary class and am already feeling the great (and burdensome, in a way) variety of different theological positions. The Heidelberg Catechism is a beautiful reminder that getting all my theology down perfectly is not what matters (phew) but rather I am secure in Christ. Blessings in your studies, brother. 🙂

  2. Hey brother, glad you enjoyed the post. I just wrote it as a sort of self-indulgent 1-off about the things I’ve been thinking, so I’m glad that someone got something out of it. So what class are you taking?

    Hope you’re doing well!

    • Michael Stalcup on said:

      I’m taking Systematic Theology 1 (of 3) – on God’s attributes, His revelation, creation and the fall, and some other stuff.

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