Theology Is…

What is true, Christian, biblical theology?  What good is it?  Is it practical?  William Ames (d. 1633) has some great answers to these questions.  Here’s an edited version of Ames’ helpful discussion.

“Theology is the doctrine or teaching [doctrina] of living to God (Jn. 6:68, Acts 5:20, Rom. 6:11).  It is called doctrine, not to separate it from understanding, knowledge, wisdom, art, or prudence – for these go with every exact discipline, and most of all theology – but to mark it as a discipline which derives not from nature and human inquiry like others, but from divine revelation and appointment (Is. 51:4, Mat. 21:25, Jn. 9:29, Gal. 1:11-12).”

“Although it is within the compass of this life to live both happily and well; living well is more excellent than living happily.  What chiefly and finally ought to be striven for is not happiness which has to do with our own pleasure, but goodness which looks to God’s glory.  For this reason, theology is better defined as that good life whereby we live to God than as that happy life whereby we live to ourselves.  The apostle therefore calls it by synecdoche (a part which stands for the whole), the teaching that accords with godliness (1 Tim. 6:3).”

“The practice of life is so perfectly reflected in theology that there is no precept of universal truth relevant to living well in domestic economy, morality, political life, or lawmaking which does not rightly pertain to theology.”

“Theology, therefore, is to us the ultimate end and noblest of all exact teaching arts.  It is a guide and master plan for our highest end, sent in a special manner from God, treating of divine things, tending towards God, and leading man to God.  It may therefore rightly be called ‘theozoia,’ a living to God, or ‘theorgia,’ a working towards God, as well as ‘theology,’ a study of God.”

“The two parts of theology are faith (believing) and observance (doing) (2 Tim. 1:13, 1 Tim. 1:19, Gen 15:6, 17:1, Matt. 28:20, Titus 3:8).”

Indeed: theology is extremely practical every day of our pilgrim life.

William Ames, The Marrow of Theology, Book 1.1-2.

shane lems

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