Cultivating good theology

Daniel Kirk at Storied Theology has a great post up in which he’s critical of an article in the current Christianity Today theme this month by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett in praise of catechism.

Now I must say, since we’re attending a Presbyterian church now (I’m actually serious), my kids have recently been learning the children’s version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Sunday School. While I’ll certainly need to start shaking loose some of the stuff I have problems with in the WCF before it hardens permanently in their minds, it’s both a good exercise for their brains and a way of learning historical Protestant theology. What I’m just saying is that although I certainly have a problem with overly and artificially systematized theology, I’m not really necessarily anti-catechism.

But I also must say, the following remarks from Daniel Kirk are spot on:

I could not disagree more with the claims being asserted [in the article by Packer and Parrett]: that the real thing we need is theology, and all those stories in the Bible (you know, the actual Bible God, in God’s wisdom, decided to give to the church) are second-rate tools the learning of which makes us less competent Christians.

This is the classic inversion of sola scriptura: no longer do we really want you to do what the Reformers did (read your Bible), we want you instead to read and memorize what they said after they had read their Bibles.

Wow. That last sentence was a home run, with bases loaded. What do you think the Hebrews did before they had a Calvin or a Beza?  Do we really want to take the ancient Jewish commentaries as seriously as we’re to take, e.g., the Westminster Confession of Faith? Why the heck would the Bible come loaded with stories of people encountering God, often coming away with differing ideas about what they learned about Him, and very little that even resembles systematic theology? Couldn’t God have provided an inspired, inerrant commentary or hermeneutic key if He really wanted to?

Certainly we should teach our kids our beliefs about what the authors of the Bible believed; it can even take the form of a catechism. But whatever we do, we don’t want to give them the impression that we are teaching them unquestionable Approved and Authorized Theology®. We should be instructing and encouraging them that good theology isn’t learned by rote, but painstakingly cultivated.

Tagged with:
Recent Posts: