Systematic Theology

I have been digging into Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What this week. I haven’t read the widely acclaimed Blue Like Jazz that has become quite popular, but I found this one on sale somewhere so I thought I would start on it.

Miller’s focus in Searching for God Knows What can be described as the formulaic church. His contention is that we have become obsessed with formulae in our churches. Everything is to fit nicely into statements, charts, and diagrams. We take this formulaic hermenuetic and approach Scripture this way.

It makes me think about being a Lipscomb and taking my first systematic theology class. In name alone, you can see the correlation between Miller’s discussion and the notion of a “systematic” theology. Our text was Stanley Grenz’s Theology for the Community of God which has been one of the most influential books in my thinking. I was so impressed with the idea of systematizing Scripture, theology, and faith in general. God, Christ, Spirit, Man, Church, Salvation, and a few other topics pretty much covered your bases. This idea was great . . .

And then, recently, I have reviewed the notion of systematic theology and have been impressed instead with the un-systemtatic way that God has worked throughout history. I really think God is more artist than philosopher. Most churches worship God the Philosopher, and I believe we would be well-served to uncover God the Artist.

We read the Bible as if it is a scientific document awaiting our dissecting knives and forecepts cutting and pasting chapters, verses, and sections where we want them and fit them in the order and system we already have in place. The result is that the God of the Bible looks an awful lot like us. We simply read our own assumptions and notions back into the texts and, are we ever suprised that we come to the same conclusions over and over?

What if, instead, we approach the text as if it is a masterful poem or portrait. The longer you look and stare, the deeper the message becomes – not systematically, but creatively. I’m not saying you piss all the critical tools for interpretation out the window, they have an integral in seeing the potrait. However, they are lenses.

Miller is obviously more of an artist than I am, and I am more of an artist than many others, but we all have the appreciation of beauty, emotion, and other artistic inclination. We must use these in our understanding of God. He is there for us to gaze upon in awe and wonder, not to contemplate and try to figure out. If we spent more time appreciating the beauty of God rather than trying to figure him out, perhaps we would be closer to him than we’ve ever been before.


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