Posted in: Theological Clarity
Theological Meanderings in a Christian Cultural Fog
By Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29
I grew up in an A-Theological church. They weren’t anti-theology but they were not pro-theology either. Frankly, I think theology scared them because they made fun of people who emphasized theology, especially Calvinists. So, we didn’t get into theology. But we studied the Bible. A lot! Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and Tuesday morning men’s Bible Study.
You can study the Bible without understanding theology.
I learned Greek and how to use the tools for Hebrew and how to parse verbs and exegete passages of Scripture and use big words in sermons. But it was like describing the intricate details of the bark of a tree without really knowing anything about the tree or the forest. It is a foolish way to understand Scripture—the revelation of God.
You can preach the Bible without preaching about Jesus.
I have heard a lot of sermons that used a lot of Bible verses without ever pointing to the person and work of Jesus. He is the hero of the Bible, not a supporting role player. Jesus said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44) emphasis mine. I once preached a brilliant sermon in a winsome way and I sat down and it struck me, “Oh crap, I left Jesus out.” Some of you are more indignant that I used that word than the fact I preached without any mention of Jesus.
Charisma didn’t translate in Italian.
The dramatic change for me occurred when I went to Italy in 1988. I went over there with a handful of “great” sermons that were lost in translation. They didn’t appreciate the clever turn of a phrase. In one sermon, the Italian missionary was trying to bail me out. I didn’t tell him I knew he was correcting my sermon when he translated it. I was instead grateful. And convicted. It changed my approach to preaching and teaching and studying the Bible.
I didn’t know any living theologians.
Since I didn’t know any living theologians, I turned to dead guys like Calvin and Edwards and Owen and Baxter and Gurnall and Watson. Their sermons were unlike my sermons and I discovered beauty in theologically deep teachings that centered on Jesus, God’s sovereignty, sinfulness of man and the grace of God.
I no longer fit in.
At my denominational meetings I felt like an Avon lady at an Amway convention. I was even elected state president of my association but I shortly quit because I knew I no longer fit. For years, I had no tribe. Then I met Acts 29 Network in 2002 when they had 17 members. I immediately found the community that appreciated theology and its application as well as passion about the mission of God through the local church.
Theology can be learned.
Even if you are meandering in a Christian cultural fog that lacks theological clarity, you can learn theology with some intentional discipline. Many of you may not have the opportunity to attend a seminary. You can start by reading Mark Driscoll’s newest book, Doctrine. You can study through BILD or Porterbrook. You can also work through my free workbook available online.
Download Theological Clarity and Application e-Book:
- Questions Only (63 pages) - Black & White | Color
- Workbook Version (91 pages) - Black & White | Color