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THE OLOGIES

This Sunday I conclude the BECAUSE HE IS series. Each of the six instalments of this series has dealt with a truth about God. My hope throughout the series so far has been that I might introduce those unfamiliar or less acquainted with God to experience a richer, deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. My motive for doing this has been to lead someone who had never loved God to come to gladly love Him — and for those who were in like of God to become besotted with their love for God. I have repeatedly said throughout this series so far that I have not wanted this to be merely a series of lectures or just interesting information for your fancy. (Added to this, I have confessed that Kim has forbidden me from lecturing this series!) But now, as I prepare to conclude this series this Sunday, I want to give you some of the theological background behind what I consider to be one of the most important series of sermons I have delivered. There was a time when theology (the study of God) was considered the “the Queen of the sciences” from which all knowledge flowed making every other ’ology a subset of Theology.

Therefore you are great, O LORD God.
For there is none like You,
and there is no God besides You,
according to all that we have heard with our ears.
Second Samuel 7:22

ONTOLOGY

The first part of this series was simply called Because He Is. If I was to have lectured on this topic it would have been on the topic of ‘ontology’ – a philosophical-theological lecture. Ontology comes from two Greek words, ontos – which means “being, person, is”; and logos – which means “reason” from which we get the English suffix –ology (‘the study of’). Ontology is therefore the study of (the ultimate) reality. When Thomas Aquinas, a Medieval theologian, developed a set of proofs for the existence of God, he began with ontology. He reasoned that because anything was it must have had a being behind it. Since we can all verify that this world is, we can verify what Aquinas stated – that there must be a Being behind it. We can also verify that this world is operates on certain principles such as fixed chemical reactions, gravity, decay, objective moral laws, planetary order. We refer to something that is obviously true or factual as “ontologically true”. Therefore, for Aquinas, the answer to the philosophical question, “How do we prove God exists?” was, “We know God exists because He is.”

And Asa cried to the LORD his God,
“O LORD, there is none like You to help, between the mighty and the weak.
Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on You, and in Your Name
we have come against this multitude.
O LORD, You are our God;
let not man prevail against You.”
Second Chronicles 14:11

 

THEOLOGY PROPER

The study of who God is, His nature, His unique attributes, His unique acts, His character, and His essence, is known as Theology Proper. I have spent the best part of the last four decades focusing on the study of this academic discipline, and yet, I still have much more to learn. The preeminent quality of God from which each of His afore mentioned aspects flows out of, is holiness. God is holy. Before we think of God as love, almighty, just, or wise, we must appreciate that He is holy — not like the human attribution inappropriately given to cities or landmarks or so-called shrines or false religious leaders — God’s holiness is almost incomprehensibly unique. God is holy means that He is: distinct, sacred, special, impeccably pure, infinitely uncommon, perfectly good.

“Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify Your Name?
For You alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship You,
for Your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Revelation 15:4 

 

ECCLESIOLOGY

When French theologian and lawyer, John Calvin, sought to correct the flagrant misrepresentations of  his day about God and His deeds, he based his research on the Apostles’ Creed, the Scriptures in their original languages, and the works of several ancient Church Fathers, especially Augustine of Hippo. The result of his research was a mammoth four-volume work known in English as The Institutes of The Christian Religion. He divided his work into four sections: (i) About God The Father as Creator and Redeemer; (ii) About God The Son as Saviour and Revealer of the Father; (iii) About God The Holy Spirit as the Agent of Redemption through raising Christ from the dead, and regenerating the redeemed; and, (iv) About the Church as the Spirit-empowered community of the redeemed. To understand God necessarily leads to understanding that He is the Redeemer by whom we can only be, and must be, saved from our sin, reconciled to God, and be eternally pardoned. To accept God’s offer of rescue is to be delivered from the darkness of our alienation into the light of our adoption and fellowship with God and the community of the redeemed. This community is known as the Ecclesia – the Church. The theological study of God’s redemption plan is known as ecclesiology.

Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:4-7, 22-23

 

DOXOLOGY

God is the Source of all goodness and blessing and is therefore worthy of all glory and praise. The Greek word for glory is doxa. In some church worship services they will close by pronouncing the doxology which literally means “words of praise”. For the one who comes to know God there is a reflex to want to worship God with praise and adoration. Human beings are created by the All-Glorious God to worship Him. Sin distorts this uniquely human characteristic by deceiving people into worshiping the created rather than the Creator.

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. ¶ Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 1:21-25

The closing book of the Bible paints a picture of the culmination of redemption where the redeemed give God glory by attributing to Him every blessing they have received, by singing – 

Saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and
under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
Revelation 5:12-13

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

One of the Greek words for knowledge is ‘episteme’ from which we get the term epistemology which is the study of how we come to know. In the realm of theology, although episteme does not occur in the Bible, epistemology pertains to how we know the truth about God. The Bible declares that God is the true God and that He is the Source of truth. This truth can be known by: (i) reliable testimony; (ii) verifiable accounts, particularly found in the Scriptures; (iii) direct encounters; (iv) direct revelation including hearing the voice of God or divine dreams; (v) philosophical contemplation such as considering creation needing a Creator (and similar to what Aquinas did); and, (vi) otherwise inexplicable answers to secret prayers to God. 

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6 

The Christian claims about God are true — not a different kind of ‘true’ to what a reasonable person would consider true, but the kind of true that is, as Francis Schaeffer described as — true truth! Therefore, Christianity’s historical truth claims can be verified. Christianity’s philosophical truth claims can be reasoned. Christianity’s subjective truth claims can be experienced. Christianity’s scientific truth claims can be tested.

 

SOTERIOLOGY

This Sunday I conclude the Because He Is series with Because He Is Life. Soteriology comes from the Greek word soterios which is translated into English as ‘salvation’. 
With each of the messages in this series there has been a “so what” element. When I map a sermon series out, often months before I preach it, I always ask the “So what?” question as I sketch it out. As you can see from the picture of my sticky-note in my Bible, next to the start of First Peter, for this series I actually began with the “so what” elements of each instalment. These “so whats” are the implications of each of these ‘ologies’ in the Because He Is series. Because He is holy, the Apostle Peter tells us we should be holy.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written,
“You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
First Peter 1:15-16

This Sunday, perhaps one of the greatest “So what?” moments that any church could hope for will be publicly demonstrated as baptise people who have accepted God’s offer of forgiveness and redemption. You will also notice that I have mined just one passage from First Peter to draw out each of these ‘ologies’. It is my hope that as you hear my heart to convey the richness of the treasure of knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, your confidence in the God of the Bible will be buttressed not just by good theology grounded in Scripture, but in the fact that you have come to know Him in truth for yourself. This Sunday will not be a lecture, and perhaps by now you can see why, and we may all humbly say along with Job – 

I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:5-6

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

3 Comments

  1. Mike Sladden

    Very good, thank you Pastor Andrew. Mike

    Reply
  2. John Sands

    I think soteriology is the knowledge of salvation.

    This has been a great refreshment after pathology, urology bacteriology etc that is my background.

    Reply
    • legana

      Yes John, it from the Greek word “soterios”. Soteriology is the study of salvation.

      Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.