November 24, 2009

Theology Is An Aquarium... Last night I taught at our Sunday Night Campus on the subject of Justification. It was a great opportunity to clearly present the theological distinctions between justification, sanctification, and glorification, and to explain why the New Testament talks about salvation in past, present, and future verb tenses. The joy, the confidence that comes from knowing that our justification is a one-time declaration from God...and that it's all God's work through amazing. To believe that while our sanctification is on-going and involves our cooperation, setbacks in our sanctification process will not undo our justification. Thanks be to God! But along the way, while immersing myself again in Erickson's "Christian Theology" and Grudem's "Systematic Theology", and re-reading Paul's words to the Romans, it occurred to me that our theological categories can be problematic. Paul is not as clear in delineating these three phases of our salvation. And to complicate things further, there are other New Testament-inspired theological words like regeneration, redemption, atonement, reconciliation, and more. Then, as a parishioner pointed out to me earlier in the week, there is Matthew 25, in which Jesus seems to indicate that there is a certain kind of behavior that demonstrates what we have done with Christ (The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats) that determines our reward or punishment. How do all these things fit together? And why is the Gospel's first and best theologian-- Paul-- not as systematic as we'd like? I suggest, as many others have, it's because Jesus wants more for us than information and understanding; He wants participation and firsthand, relationship-based knowledge. (Paul's favorite word for the kind of "knowledge" we are to have of Christ is the kind of intimate knowledge that you could only gain through experiencing Him.) In a way, then, theology is like an aquarium--...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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