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    THEOLOGY

    A pastor I know, Stephey Belynskyj, starts each confirmation class with a jar full of beans. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right. Belynskyj then turns to the list of favorite songs. "And which one of these is closest to being right?" he asks. The students protest that there is no "right answer"; a person's favorite song is purely a matter of taste.

    Belynskyj, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame asks, "When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?" Always, Belynskyj says, from old as well as young, he gets the same answer: Choosing one's faith is more like choosing a favorite song. 

    When Belynskyj told me this, it took my breath away. "After they say that, do you confirm them?" Iasked him. 

    "Well," smiled Belynskyj, "First I try to argue them out of it." 

    Tim Stafford, Christianity Today, September 14, 1992, p. 36.


    Labour mightily for a healing spirit. Away with all discriminating names whatever that may hinder the applying of balm to heal your wounds...Discord and division become no Christian. For wolves to worry the lambs is no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous.

    --Thomas Brooks, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Vol. 5 No. 2, p. 3, I.D.E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 304.


    But little is gained if opinions are crammed into men; and this is likely to be the case where they are not permitted to inquire and to doubt. At the same time it must be remembered that no spirit is more unfriendly to that indifference of mind so essential to freedom of inquiry than that which arises in the conduct of controversy. When we become advocates we lay aside the garb of philosophers. The desire of victory is often stronger than the love of truth; and pride, jealousy, ambition and envy, identifying ourselves with our opinions, will lend their aid to pervert our judgments and to seduce us from our candor. A disputatious spirit is always the mark of a little mind. The cynic may growl, but he can never aspire to the dignity of character. There are undoubtedly occasions when we must contend earnestly for the truth; but...we should look well to our own hearts, that no motives animate us but the love of truth and zeal for the highest interests of man.

    James Henley Thornwell, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Vol. 5 No. 2, p. 3, from Collected Writings, Vol. II, Banner of Truth, 1974, p. 511-2.

    And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self- righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. 

    John Newton, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Vol. 5 No. 2, p. 2, from The Works of John Newton, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p. 272.


    I'm reminded of E.B. White's comment: "People have re-cut their clothes to follow the fashion...People have remodeled their ideas too -- taken in their convictions a little at the waist, shortened the sleeves of their resolve, and fitted themselves out in a new intellectual ensemble copied from a smart design out of the very latest page of history." When slavery to fashion invades the church, our latest ideas are yesterday's fads. We adopt the world's agenda -- just a few years too late. Many churchmen sport theological bell-bottoms. 

    Charles Colson, Against the Night, p. 151.


    A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly. Nothing could be more fatal, however, than to set these two things over against one another. Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs. 

    B.B. Warfield, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Volume 4, Number 5, p. 16.


    As the name imports, Systematic Theology has for its object the gathering all that the Scriptures teach as to what we are to believe and do, and the presenting all the elements of this teaching in a symmetrical system. The human mind must seek unity in all its knowledge...The method of construction is inductive.

    It rests upon the results of Exegesis for its foundation. Passages of Scripture ascertained and interpreted are its data. These when rightly interpreted reveal their own relations and place in the system of which the Person and work of Christ is the centre. 

    A.A. Hodge, quoted in Credenda Agenda, Vol. 4, No. 5, p. 1.


    Theology is practical: especially now...If you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones--bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.

     C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.


    I take God the Father to be my chief end and highest good.

    I take God the Son to be my prince and Savior.

    I take God the Holy Spirit to be my sanctifier, teacher, guide, and comforter.

    I take the Word of God to be my rule in all my actions and the people of God to be my people under all conditions.

    I do hereby dedicate and devote to the Lord all I am, all I have, and all I can do.

    And this I do deliberately, freely, and forever.

    --baptismal declaration written by Philip Henry, father of  Matthew Henry


    An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent theologian. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in theology because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good theology. Neither its pipes nor its sermons will hold water. 

    Adapted from John W. Gardner.