The Challenge of the Science of Theology

What are the requirements of a sound science of theology?

R.E. Loasby, Professor of New Testament, SDA Theological Seminar

We are familiar with the terms, the science of med­icine, the science of mathe­matics, the science of philol­ogy, and so on. We recognize each one as representing a branch of knowledge. Simi­larly we are acquainted with the science of theology, which is a complete theological system. In harmony with other true sciences the science of theology is pro­found and self-consistent knowledge.

One of the usual divisions of theological science as presented is bibliology, that is, the science of the Book. This deals with the revelation and inspiration of the Scrip­tures, their authenticity, credibility, and canonicity. To prove that the Bible is au­thentic and credible is the sphere of this branch of the science of theology.

Theology, the science of God, is that branch of the science of theology that deals with the person of God: His existence, the Trinity, the divine attributes, decrees, creative acts, and providences.

Anthropology, the science of man, treats of man's creation, his nature, his fall and its effects.

Christology, the science of Jesus Christ, treats of the person of Jesus Christ as a composite being, dealing with both His di­vinity and humanity with its impeccability. In intimate association with Christology is soteriology, the science of Christ's work as Saviour and Mediator in relation to both God and man.

Finally, we have eschatology, the science of the last things, which treats of the com­pletion of the plan of salvation, with the re-creation of the heavens and the earth, and the establishing of the eternal kingdom.

Requisites for Study of Science of Theology

In one's study of the science of theology, it is obvious that a sound working knowl­edge of the languages of the Book is a major requisite for the professional the­ology student who makes the teaching of the Christian religion his life's vocation. One who professes to be a divinely called teacher of the Word should never be satis­fied to seek to teach its truths, to present their credibility, without the ability to read the inspired messages in the languages in which the Holy Spirit gave them. The Eternal Word is the infinite fullness of knowledge. To publicly set forth oneself as an appointed teacher of that knowledge rightly demands more than an acquaint­ance with the English language as the source, medium, and expression of its proofs.

We are exhorted to go beyond the study of the ABC's (tes arches) of our faith, and go on to a maturity (telioteta) in study and discussion (Heb. 6:1). We are told also to gird up the loins of our minds (1 Peter 1:13). This is a reference to our thinking: to tuck in the loose ends of our thinking. More often than we are aware of, the effects of our message fail to reach to saving power because of loose presenta­tion, an evidence of imperfect thinking.

Lethargy in Bible study is shown by us in the simplest matters. 'We know that we are not qualified to discriminate between God's commandments, to say that one is greater than another. Yet, basing our re­marks on the King James Version (Matt. 22;36), we preach sermons to that effect. We ought to know that poia ("which," King James Version) is a qualitative word, both from its usage and from Christ's re­ply. Then we arrive at the true statement: "What kind of commandment is great in the law?" The answer of Jesus is definitive: He speaks of two commandments, the qual­ity of which is "love," thereby setting them apart from all others.

Strive to Plumb the Depths of the Word

We are also prone to endless arguments on matters the Bible and the writings of the Spirit of prophecy have not made posi­tively clear. One of these is the person of Melchizedek. The apostle admits there is much that should have been said about this mysterious person as a type of the priesthood of Christ. But he could say lit­tle. The reason being, "since you have grown indolent in respect to hearing" (see Heb. 5:11). The apostle would have an­swered many questions about Melchizedek, but the believers lacked push in their hear­ing ("dull," King James Version; Greek nothpoi, a compound word that literally means "lack of push"). The perfect tense of the verb used by the apostle suggests they had been keen students of the Word at one time, but now had become indolent; they lacked force and push in their study of truth.

I repeat, the Eternal Word is the in­finite fullness of knowledge. We should be­ware lest we fail miserably in our under­standing of that Word, for it affects our work of building up the church. Each man's work will be revealed in the fire of a judgment by God. A man's lifework may be swept away by that judgment ("he shall suffer loss"). He personally may be saved, though with difficulty ("so as by fire"), but he will not receive that special "reward" that the one will receive whose work sur­vives the consuming fire of God's judgment (1 Cor. 3:13-15). We should realize it is not a matter to be proud of to say to a young worker, "Oh, I was exposed to Biblical Greek, but have never found any use for it in thirty and more years of ministry." John Knox studied, and became proficient in Greek when more than fifty years of age. William Ewart Gladstone gained a won­derful knowledge of Hebrew after reaching eighty years of age. Mr. Spurgeon, who was never privileged to attend a seminary—nor even a college—became proficient in both Hebrew and Greek, and is recognized as a deep theologian. Our work is surely not less important or demanding than was theirs. Therefore in the words of Paul the apostle we say, "Study to shew thyself ap­proved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

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R.E. Loasby, Professor of New Testament, SDA Theological Seminar

April 1957

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