Friday, August 6, 2010

"Be a Bible Christian and not a System Christian"...Charles Simeon

I'm currently reading Wayne Grudem's excellent textbook, "Systematic Theology", and listening to him teach the book on MP3.
Systematic theology
is a discipline which addresses theological topics one by one and attempts to summarize all the Biblical teaching on each particular subject. Its goal is to present the major themes (or teachings or doctrines) of the Christian faith in an organized and ordered overview that remains faithful to the Biblical witness. Its main goal is to draw a clear description of what the Bible teaches about a particular doctrine.
(definition of systematic theology taken and partly summarized from Theopedia-I know, not the best theological source, forgive my laziness)

(Now before getting upset with me about things we may disagree on in the next few paragraphs, go to the bottom of this post to see what Charles Simeon said, which is actually the whole point of this post.)

On Soteriology - the study of Salvation, I have no tolerance for other views. I believe Jesus was narrow and intolerant when He said in John 14:6 "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me."
On Ecclesiology - the study of the Church, I have strong views on what I feel the Bible teaches on Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Church Government, etc., and have aligned my family and myself with the Church closest to my views on these, but have respect for other views.
On Eschatology - the study of last things or end times, I part with my "Reformed" brethren here. I believe Jesus will rapture His church, there will be a "time of Jacob's trouble such as the world has never known", i.e. the "Great Tribulation Period", and that Jesus will physically return afterward and rule and reign on the Throne of David for 1000 years on earth, which I think is consistent with my view of the Church and Israel, but give room to other views, and constantly ask God to show me if and where I'm wrong. I don't believe every single promise to the nation Israel can be spiritualized to the Church today. I don't believe the Bible teaches "replacement theology". I believe God is still going to fulfill numerous yet unfilled promises to Israel, and I believe Scripture teaches this plainly in Romans 11, and elsewhere. But I know of many learned and scholarly "Reformed" giants in the faith, past and present who disagree with me, and who knows? They may be right (but I don't presently think so). I do, however, ask God to show me when and where I am wrong, and hope I have the discernment to know when the Holy Spirit is convicting me to change errant views in light of Scriptural Truths.

I believe that correct Doctrine (teaching) is essential, and that Systematic Theology is a much needed discipline among Christian believers. But I see and hear of so much non-productive bickering and arguing among Christians today about "systems", such as:
Calvinism vs. Arminianism; (Can you guess which view I hold to? But there are
certainly many other things Calvin taught, believed, and did that I'm not in
agreement with)
Augustinian vs. Pelagian teachings on original sin (Pelagius was labeled a heretic, by
the way)
Sovereignty of God in Salvation vs. Semi-Pelagianism (also a heresy in my
Divine Grace vs. Free Will (now I'm not saying we don't make choices every day,
nor am I denying human responsibility)
Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology; (I lean toward one over the other,
but not fully in all details)
Cessasionist vs. Non-Cessasionist views on spiritual gifts; (not gonna go there
right now)
Historic Pre-Millenialism vs. Dispensational Pre-Millienialism vs. Amillenialism vs. Postmillenialism views on the 1000 year reign of Jesus
Christ on Earth.
Pre-Trib vs. Mid-Trib vs. Post-Trib views on the rapture
Preterist, Partial Preterist vs. all the above (I think the Preterist view is ridiculous by the way, just sayin)
Believer's Baptism vs. Infant Baptism
Now please don't misunderstand me here. These lists are nowhere near all-inclusive areas of disagreement, but just a small sample. These are all important areas of discussion, some more than others, and I have convictions on each one of these. Some I view as critical. Some I view as heretical. Some I view as gray-areas, or non-essentials.

I also know there's a time and place for apologetics and "contending for the faith", as well as "intelligent Christian conversation on issues that matter", as Albert Mohler puts it. I'm not at all suggesting we compromise on any essential Truths of the Christian faith. And I am in no way endorsing Ecumenicalism. There are some things we can't come together on without compromising our Faith.

However, I am grieved in my spirit when I hear arguments about "systems", where the person(s) is so caught up with defending his particular "system", rather than the Gospel. I often hear people go at each other tearing down or defending John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius (mostly Calvin-I hear very few people, even anti-Calvinists even attempting to defend Arminius). Seldom do you hear them mentioning what Jesus said, or what the Apostle Paul said, or what Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, or Isaiah penned. Or how isolated passages they love to quote (sometimes taken out of context) actually fit with the rest of Scripture.

Rarely do I see these disputes lead to the parties opening the Bible and seeing what "thus saith the LORD". They have pre-conceived ideas, and seem to be all about "what I think" or "what I feel", rather than what the Word says.

According to a book I read recently by Warren Wiersbe, "50 People Every Christian Should Know-Learning From Spiritual Giants of the Faith",

Charles Simeon(1759-1836), an English Evangelical clergyman, once told his students,
"My endeavor is to bring out of scripture what is there, and not to trust in what I think might be there...Take the Word as little children without enquiring what human system it appears to favor."..."Be a Bible Christian and not a system Christian," he advised his students.

And so I pray that I can, along with Charles Simeon,

"Be a Bible Christian and not a System Christian".

And I hope and pray that I can always say, as Simeon did:

"My endeavor is to bring out of scripture what is there, and not to trust in what I think might be there...

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