Month 10:4, Week 1:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year:Day 5940:270 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 2 January 2017
Why It is Necessary for Believers
The Theology That Arises
All theology arises out of a long process of meticulous research over many generations. Rather like a genealogical tree, theological schools represent different 'families' of thought, some closely related, some distant, depending on the forces that drive that 'family' and are heavily dependent both on the original assumptions laid down by the 'clan' not to mention the ongoing assumptions made along the way. But assumptions must be tested.
An Academic's Disease?
I can understand why most Christians and Messianics have an aversion to theology and simply want to get on with the Besorah (Gospel) life. They want to read and use whatever version of the Bible they are comfortable with and assemble from that an understanding of what basic salvation is and the lifestyle Yahweh expects them to live. The very mention of 'theology' sends most into a tailspin as though it were some academic's disease to be avoided at all costs.
Dependence on Exegetes
I am not, of course, saying that we all have to be academics. However, everyone does have to admit dependence on those exegetes of both present and past who evolved the system of belief and practice that we have largely just inherited and take for granted as being 'true'. Yesterday, as part of the research I was doing, I casually pulled out Robert L.Dabney's tome, Lectures in Systematic Theology, regarded by many as a masterful exposition of the Reformed faith. After a couple of paragraphs I could read no further. The Ruach (Spirit) explicity told me to 'move on'.
Which brings me to a most important point. Yahweh does not want us to shut down our intellectual appartus in pursuit of the emet (truth) but equally He does not want us to waste our time walking on territory that is fruitless and more often than not the produce of pride and vanity, not to mention error. I am so glad I never went to a theological seminary even though I had begun studies with Cambridge University prior to moving to Norway in 1988. And whilst we most definitely need the full range of exegetical tools to do theology well, we don't need to stick our heads into the restrictive (and potentially strangling) noose of just one particular school of thought. For one thing, Remnant theologians just don't have the time. Just look at the pervasiveness of Calvinism in Evangelical churches yet most Christians who belong to, having usually been raised in, the Calvinistic system have really little idea what it is they believe in or why. It never occurs to them to question. And when, for example, they encounter Arminians, their response, like that in the realm of politics, is usually tribal rather than reasoned. People have lost the ability to think because they are no longer encouraged to do so.
All are Geniuses
I do not believe that the Bible speaks of a New Covenant Priest-Laity division because I do not believe that Yahweh created a minority class to do the thinking for the majority. Acceptance of such arrangements leads to tyranny which thrives in ignorance. Along with Einstein I believe that all human beings are geniuses, or are otherwise capable of being so. He said:
Mental and Emotional Intelligence
"Everybody is a genius. But but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."
Classifying people as 'clever' or 'stupid' based on false expectations or tunnel-vision limitations is just manipulation. However, that doesn't mean you can be a thinker without doing some thinking and learning how to think. Nor does it mean that the soul predisposed to laziness can claim, instead, to be 'spiritual' to supposedly compensate. Nor is all intelligence just 'brain-power'. Equally important is what scientists like Robert W.Witkin and John Gottman are at last beginning to recognise and call 'emotional intelligence'. Intelligence isn't just mental, it's also emotional, and each compliments the other. They are, however, different categories of intelligence and abide by slightly different sets of rules. A good counsellor doesn't have to be a brainiac, and a brainiac might not necessarily make a good counsellor.
Two Key Passages
I mention 'categories' because people often confuse them. Thus a couple of the most abused passages I have come across in the ministry are these:
'You Can't Teach Me Anything!'
"But the Helper, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26, NKJV).
"But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (1 John 2:27, NKJV).
I don't know how many times I have met people who insist that they are in need of no education from anyone, particularly of a theological nature, and who love to cite 1 John 2:27! And yet, as it turned out on one occasion, a man claiming to be beyond the need of any sort of instruction received his instruction from a King James Version Bible containing Mr.Scofield's 'explanatory footnotes'. This man, who had 'no need of instruction' because he had the anointing of the 'Holy Ghost' was perpetrating KJV translation errors along with Mr.Scofield's numerous false doctrines. Whatever 'anointing' he had was not correcting the false things be believed thanks to his Scofield Reference Bible.
The Promises Actually Made
So what was the promise the Saviour made in John 14:26? Firstly, He promised that the Ruach (Spirit) would ensure perfect memory recall to the original witnesses of what He had said to them while He was with them. We have the evidence of that, at least on a conceptual basis, in the Four Gospels, so that He was ensuring several of them would at least write an accurate history. This is what we mean by the inspiration of Scripture. What, though, did He mean when He said the Ruach (Spirit) would "teach [them] all things"? Does the "all" here mean the summum bonum of all knowledge, including quantum physics?
What the Ruach Actually Taught
Firstly, Yah'shua (Jesus) wasn't addressing everybody but a select audience, His first talmidim (disciples) and specifically the apostles for their alotted task. He did not call them to be quantum physicists but apostles. The promise was specifically to them in their ministry of both preaching the Besorah (Gospel) and in producing the New Covenant Scriptures. They had failed to understand many of the things about Yah'shua (Jesus) and what He taught but later, because of this supernatural endowment or anointing of the Ruach (Spirit), they would come to an inerrant and accurate understanding of the Master and His Work, and later record it in the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament (2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pet.1:20-21). In other words, everything we need to know about salvation and the lifestyle of the qodeshim (saints. set-apart ones) is there, in our Bibles, and we don't need to go hunting elsewhere for this particular message. But if we want to become quantum physicists, well, then you must acquire that knowledge by other means. Once more, context is everything. The Ruach (Spirit) may point you here and there but isn't going to give you all the mathematics on a plate.
Teachers Not Negated
What of the apostle John's promise? Well, for one thing, he is talking about the same "anointing" that Yah'shua (Jesus) promises, only now it's real and present. Clearly John is not negating the importance of gifted teachers in the Messianic Community (Church) whose essentialness is underlined in those same Scriptures Yah'shua (Jesus) said would be inspired by this same anointing:
Bringing Believers to Maturity Through Teaching
"And in the Assembly of Yahweh (Church of God) has appointed first of all apostles, second nevi'im (prophets), third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all nevi'im (prophets)? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" (1 Cor.12:28-30, NIV).
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be nevi'im (prophets), some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare Elohim's (God's) people for works of service, so that the body of Messiah may be built up until we all reach unity in the emunah (faith) and in the knowledge of the Son of Elohim (God) and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Messiah" (Eph.4:11-13, NIV).
The teacher is ranked third in importance in the Body and his purpose, like those of the other officers in the local assemblies, is to assist in bringing the Body to maturity and unity of the emunah (faith) which is invariable a long drawn-out process. The anointing we receive does not automatically, or in an instant, give us all knowledge, and it most certainly does not provoke instant maturity!
So what is John saying? He is saying that as far as that which pertains to salvation is concerned, we are not to be dependent on human wisdom or the opinions of men for the emet (truth) because such knowledge is given by personal revelation, as it was to the apostles at the foot of Mount Hermon when Peter was given the witness that Yah'shua (Jesus) was the Messiah, the One in possession of the devarim (words) of eteranal chayim (life):
Go to Heaven for Salvation Knowledge
"When Yah'shua (Jesus) came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His talmidim (disciples), 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the nevi'im (prophets). 'But what about you?' He asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim (God).' Yah'shua (Jesus) replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven'" (Matt.16:13-17, NIV).
Certain kinds of knowledge can only be received from Heaven and this is one of them. Concerining this kind we are in need of no man or woman to teach us, ever! Once received directly from Heaven, it is fully known. It is simple and you need not be an intellectual to receive it. You do not need to be a theologian either. Indeed you cannot, and should not, go to flesh-and-blood to receive this witness. You must go to Elohim (God) directly for He promises you that if you trust, you shall recfeive it.
Thereafter we all of us need assistance one way or another in order to come to maturity and unity of the emunah (faith). And, sadly, there is precious little of that, and will be, until people learn to think for themselves. Yes, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) guards and guides the true believer into the emet (truth) but only with our permission and conditional upon our being open to ongoing instruction. Our task is to "walk in the emet (truth)" (3 Jn.3), that is, to persevere in faithfulness and sound doctrine, especially as there will always be deception in the world and in the churches (2 Jn.4:3; 3 Jn.4).
How We Learn From Each Other
Part of the Ruach's (Spirit's) task is to lead us to people who have themselves been instructed by the Ruach (Spirit) and by others sound in the Ruach (Spirit). That is what teachers in the Body are for. And since they're there, clearly we cannot do without them. Many have been my teachers and many will continue to be. There have also been many false teachers who have required a lot of effort on my part to expose and not get sucked up into their lies. I used a Scofield Reference Bible once and I have used many other Bibles with fabulous commentaries and footnotes some of what have been helpful and some of which have been not. One of my main callings in the Body is to be a Teacher, and indeed that was my profession in the secular world too. So I hope I have honed (sharpened) a few skills that will be of assistance to others.
The Mission Field Seminary
As I said earlier, I went to no theological seminary or school. Like the apostles, the mission field has been mine but whenever I have needed instruction, Yahweh has always sent me to those whose knowledge I have needed. Many there are I could name, both contemporary and late. I am going to share one story by way of illustration so that you know how Yahweh has worked in my life as far as instruction is concerned.
A Ramshackle Second-hand Book Store
Nearly 20 years ago, when I worked in Oslo, was was returning home one evening by public transport. As it was a rather nice wintery day and as there was a wait between connections, I decided to stretch my legs a bit and walk to the next bus stop, something I had never done on this stretch of the way home. After a few minutes I came across a rather ramshackle-looking wooden building next to the railway track which looked as though it was about to fall down and saw that it was a second-hand bookshop. Unable to resist such a temptation, with the promise of all kinds of delights, I went in and felt very strongly led to a particular book compiled in honour of a Norwegian Lutheran theologian, Nils Alstrup Dahl , written in Norwegian, English, German and French owing to its international contributors. Other than the rather lovely red leather binding, there was nothing much else to attract me, as Lutheran theology has never really had much fascination for me. Little did I know, though, that though Dahl was Lutheran, on the theological spectrum he held to no particular school, a reason he was, I suspect, respected by so many.
An Article on Glossolalia
Most of the articles looked dull and uninteresting except for one by Krister Stehndahl on Glossolalia and the Charismatic Movement which clearly was what I was supposed to read then (in 1998). The material therein sowed seeds for what would become, as many of you know, an intense and exhaustive investigation into the whole 'tongues' issue in the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches which purports to be from the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) but which I still firmly believe is not. So, I thought, that is what Yahweh wanted me to but this book for!
An Obscure Footnote
Until last night, that is, when I was researching for an important series of articles I am working on the deity of Messiah called The Word Made Flesh. I was deep into the work of the foremost Pauline theologian of our day, N.T.Wright, when I came across a footnote (I always read footnotes - they are full of goodies sometimes!) that citedthe work of one 'N.A.Dahl' who had apparently led the way in reexamining what is meant by monotheism in his seminal paper, The One God of Jews and Gentiles, which I had never heard about before. Then in my mind popped an image of this red leather-bound book. 'Wait a minute,' I thought to myself, 'haven't I heard of this man before?' So I dashed down to my library, rummaged in some little-disturbed shelves of little-used book, and eventually found it.
Torah and Paul
I wasn't sure what to expect, actually - I guess I hoped to find his paper, The One God of Jews and Gentiles, but this was written a year after the book was published so it wasn't in there! Yet I sensed the Ruach (Spirit) urging me to sift through the book for something. Within seconds I knew which article Yahweh wanted me to read - indeed, it was the one right after the Golossolalia one I had studied years before. This was entitled, Torah and Paul. 'Write about this,' I heard the Ruach (Spirit) say, and this article is by way of a preface to my next task before I resume work on The Word Made Flesh.
Why Theology Matters
Why does theology matter? I would like to suggest there are at least eight reasons (you may be able to think of more):
- 1. Because we are commanded to do theology for evangelism's sake: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of Elohim (God), and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Messiah" (2 Cor.10:5, NIV). This isn't something you do once and forget all about it - it has to be taken up anew again and again. Finally, we ourselves need to be 're-evangelised' as new emet (truth) comes forth from the Davar Elohim (Word of God);
- 2. Because you can't 'feel' your way to Yahweh: doctrines cannot be extracted from inward experiences or personal feelings (Gnosticism, existentialism) but from the Davar (Word), both the Living (Yah'shua/Jesus) and the Written (Bible);
- 3. Because the Bible isn't a bag of assorted facts you can just help yourself to: in it one thing to repeat the mantra that the Bible is our 'infallible guide to faith and practice' forgetting just how many diverse denominations there are making the same claim. Heretics (those who teach false doctrines) are expert at using the same Scriptures! Two general rules must influence our theology: the Rule of Emunah (Faith) and the Rule of Ahavah (Love). The latter promotes the love of Yahweh and neighbour, the former the messianic community's (church's) shared theological affirmations as a similar guide for reading;
- 4. Because Yahweh wants us to be on the move and not stuck in cul-de-sacs: the stabilisation of traditions (fossilisation), representing just one marker along the way, tends to quench out the chayim (life) of theology peoperly done. If the Davar Elohim (Word of God) is indeed "living and active" (Heb.4:12, NIV), then a militant defense of the past can result in the silencing of Yahweh in the present;
- 5. Because Yahweh wants us to seek, and be true to, the 'Bigger Picture': our goal is the Millennial New Jerusalem emunah (faith) and Torah-lifestyle, not what society's norms or the society-influenced Body in all its diversity thinks it should be. This means constant exploration and change which themselves, because they are transitionary, bring about 'vibrant messiness' (tidying up as we go along, of course) as opposed to 'spiritless homogeneity' - to be alive means to poop as well (and to clear it up afterwards);
- 6. Because Yahweh wants us to learn to daily die to self and not to be absorbed with self-fulfillment: theology should remind us of the power of Yahweh to change us through re-imaging as vessels of the Messiah-life. The messianic community is not a self-help instruction course to titillate mind and feelings but a place of collective missionary self-giving: "Whoever wants to be My talmid (disciple) must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34, NIV);
- 7. Because Yahweh’s will for your life isn’t really about your life: "He (Yahweh) predestined us for adoption to sonship through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), in accordance with His pleasure and will...With all wisdom and understanding, He has made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which he purposed in Messiah, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment — to bring unity to all things in heaven and things on earth under Messiah" (Eph.1:5,8–10, NIV). Yahweh's will is therefore not a riddle to be solved but a reality to be praised and proclaimed;
- 8. Because it's not just what you believe that matters, but why you believe it and how: We are convinced that engaging in careful theological thought is an essential task of the Christian life. We can no more abandon theology than we can abandon Elohim (God), since theology is involved in some fashion whenever we think or speak about Elohim (God). Consequently, every person is a theologian. The only question is whether we will be thoughtful, responsible theologians or irresponsible ones. The journey of Christian/Messianic discipleship is a matter of learning why we believe, and thinking hard and carefully about this belief, not so that we can bludgeon others with our knowledge but so that we can bear faithful witness to Yahweh in the totality of our life. Theology is less about the what and much more about the how. We are called as believers not to sign up to a certain doctrinal statement but to follow a certain way of life - a Torah lifestyle in Messiah. To be a thoughtful believer is to be commissioned for a life of disciplined reflection in conversation with the nevi'im (prophets), apostles, and the theologians who have reflected on Yahweh in the past and whose legacy we have inherited. The goal is not simply to repeat the words that they used to proclaim the Besorah (Gospel) in their time and place, but to think under their tutelage about what words we must use today. Theology is inherently an act of prayer, insofar as we offer up our words and thoughts in service to Yahweh in the expectant tiqveh (hope) — by the grace of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) — that they will build up the Body of Messiah. And this prayerful task of theology is never done. Like Yahweh’s mercies, it is new every morning. 
 Jacob Jervell & Wayne A. Meeks (ed.s), God's Christ and His People: Studies in Honour of Nils Alstrup Dahl (Universitetsforlaget, Oslo: 1977)
 Adapted from David W. Congdon and W. Travis McMaken, Ten Reasons Why Theology Matters