Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Order of a Different Kind

This week's Carnival of Beauty is on the Beauty of Order.

When I asked myself if I wanted to blog about order, my first thought went to the disorder of my attic and my basement. If you stay on main floor of my house, you will come away with the idea that I am an orderly person. And you'd be right; I am. You could open any drawer or cupboard or closet on the main floor of my home and observe an "observable orderliness." That's not to say everything is neat as a pin, but like things are grouped together in a relatively neat and tidy way. I like it that way, it makes me happy.

But when you get to the storage room in my basement or the whole of my attic, you will see a very different scenario. Oh, if you look carefully you will find evidences of past organization attempts but to see that you would have to look beyond the chaos. I have only a very vague idea of what is in all those boxes that are crammed together and frankly, the disorder is what keeps me from going up (or down) there and taking care of it.

About now, you're probably expecting me to take out my handy dandy camera and snap pictures of my shame. That day may come, but as Aragorn said, "it is not this day."

This day I am going to throw a curve ball. Because as I really thought about what I like most about order I thought of something different. I thought of Louis Berkhof and Robert Reymond. Some of you are smiling right now because you know where I am going with this. Others are scratching their heads and thinking, "Who are those guys and what do they have to do with order?"

Berkhof and Reymond are two of my "familiar friends", or at least they are familiar through their writings. Both have written Systematic Theologies.

What is a Systematic Theology? I will borrow from Reymond as he quotes J. Gresham Mechan:

Systematic theology "seeks to set forth, no longer in the order of the time when it was revealed [biblical theology] but in the order of logical relationships, the grand sum of what God has told us in His Word."
Think of it this way. My usage of the Bible is like the way I live in my house. The familiar daily essentials are well known, well used, and at my fingertips, like the main floor of the house. I know right where to find my hairbrush, my appliance manuals, my dishtowels and cereal boxes. The same is true with the Bible; I know where I will turn in my Bible when I am grieving, when I am tempted, when I lack peace, when I need encouragement or assurance.

But I know that there are treasures in the Word; treasures that relate to and expand upon the familiar passages. But, like my attic and basement storage room, on first glance I wonder, "Where in the world do I start? How can I find what I am looking for? How will I know how it all fits together?"

That's where a good Systematic Theology comes in. A Systematic Theology helps you find what you are looking for and then goes on to help you understand how the parts relate to the whole. I don't want to take my attic and basement analogies too far; they are truly disorganized, the Bible isn't. It can just seem that way to the casual observer.

A Systematic Theology helps you open up those obscure passages, discover those Biblical treasures, and think more deeply about Biblical truth. Before you know it, some of those attic treasures find their places on the main floor. . .

Before you know it, you'll no longer be a casual observer but a lifelong "studier."

The entries in this week's Carnival of Beauty need to be submitted by 3 pm EST today, so get organized and get them submitted! Don't forget to check out all the entries tomorrow!

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