Theology is essentially incoherent without Jesus Christ.
Am I justified? If so where does election fit in? Wait you are saying a baby is elect when he/she is baptized? So where does union with Christ fit into all of this? Is sanctification a part of justification or a consequent of justification? Where does the calling to repentance and faith fit into all of this? Am I saved? How do I know I am saved?
These are some questions that us seminarians scratch our heads about during the more dogmatic/theological part of our seminary education. If you find yourself confused by some of this terminology, I think we might have something to learn from you! This is definitely an important part of seminary and learning theology and learning how to explain the gospel in the churches. And yet…
Systematic theology can feel like it is wearisome, burdensome, and grasping after wind. Sometimes it feels like we are trying to shepherd the mist.
How do I dig through all this terminology and nuance as a seminarian, or as a church member??!!!
2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
This verse really is one of the thesis statements of Paul’s theology. This struck me as I was reading Richard Gaffin’s perspective on Paul’s doctrine of salvation. There are a lot of big words in Reformed theology that come straight out of Scripture in no particular order: repentance, faith, calling, justification, sanctification, election, glorification. We are called to come to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and so we are called to come to a deeper understanding of what these things mean. But we can only understand them in Jesus Christ. Justification, sanctification, glorification, can all be understood in the life of Jesus Christ.
Now, this is not ground-breaking thought. But when you think about this deeply, it has massive implications for who we are as Christians. It is not any particular genius, but it brings us to the person of Christ. When we are baptized into the church, we are not just coming to a theological or moral or experiential system, but to Jesus Christ Himself. Our baptism is into His death and we are called to look to Christ as our lives are conformed to His resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4).
When we find ourselves battered by doubts, sins, temptations, and the pain of life we can look to Jesus Christ. When we find ourselves confused by the theology of Scripture, and how Reformed preachers try to explain it, we can look to Christ in whom all things make sense (Col. 1:17). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).