Differing on aspects of theology yet united in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Differing on aspects of theology yet united in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Dr. John P. Davis

 

 

            I love theological reflection – trying to determine the correct meaning of biblical texts and what they teach us about God, ourselves, and the world we live in. I love theological formulation – attempting to classify and arrange theological affirmations in a systematic form. I love theological interaction – discussing with those who also reflect and formulate, yet who often come to different affirmations.

 

            I believe that theological reflection, formulation, and interaction are healthy for the believer and the church and that they serve to refine one’s understanding of what biblical texts say about what God has done, is doing and will ultimately do in this world and the world to come. The process of theological reflection, formulation, and interaction also serves to restrain the tendency to elevate our isolated, contextually limited understanding of Scripture.

 

            Theological reflection, formulation, and interaction should ultimately result in a greater transformation of life and ministry.

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17   16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

 

However, I’ve observed that in order for the process of theological reflection, formulation, and interaction to be profitable instead of divisive, it needs to take place within certain parameters that insure that Christian unity is preserved. Those parameters, I suggest are as follows:

 

1. The foundation of relationship with my brothers and sisters in Christ of our common understanding of and shared experience in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the meeting point for theological reflection, formulation, and interaction.

 

The self-evident, axiomatic, and perspicuous theology of the gospel of Jesus Christ undergirds the theological enterprise.

 

John 3:16-18  16 ¶ “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-4  3 ¶ For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

 

John 20:30-31   30 ¶ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

2. The New Commandment of Jesus and the intercessory prayer of Jesus for unity are to be preserved at all costs as we engage in the theological enterprise.

 

John 13:34-35  34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

 

John 17:20-23   20 ¶ “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,  21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

 

 

3. A shared commitment to inerrancy and biblical authority undergird all of our reflection, formulation, and interaction with Scripture.

 

Acts 17:11  11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

 

2 Peter 1:19-21  19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

4. Councils, creeds, and confessions should have only a tertiary, non-authoritative role in the understanding of Scripture.

 

Mark 7:6-9   6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”  9 ¶ And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

 

 

5. Engagement in theological reflection, formulation, and interaction intends to move beyond the theoretical and answer the question of how life and ministry are transformed.

 

Acts 20:32  32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

Romans 15:4-6   4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Romans 1:1-6  1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,  3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,  5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,  6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

 

 

            These five parameters provide a starting point for theological reflection, formulation, and interaction within the body of Christ. A process that will be gracious and non-divisive.. These parameters invite charismatics and cessationists, Calvinists and non-Calvinists, dispensationalists and covenant theologians and new covenant theologians, those who differ on life-style issues, and all those who find they do not quite fit into neat categories.

            In the context of gospel-centeredness, biblical love and unity, commitment to Scripture, rejection of man-made authorities, and passion to grow and reach out, the enterprise of theological reflection, formulation, and interaction will yield the fruit of glory to God, peace among the people of God, and greater impact on the nations.

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On September 10, 1970 I came to understand the great love of God for me, a sinner and a rebel. That evening I received God’s forgiveness and a new life through Jesus Christ, who died in my place and rose again to offer forgiveness and new life. I have been senior pastor for over 30 years planting two churches in Buckingham, PA and Queens, NY and serving two other churches in Brooklyn, NY and Roslyn, PA. I am currently the lead pastor at Grace Church of Philly.

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