In a couple of weeks I will begin to teach an Introduction to Systematic Theology. I added the word “introduction”, because I dare not think that in a two week span I can purport to teach anything comprehensive about theology. But one could go further. How dare we purport to know anything about God? Isn’t it the ultimate pride to study God? As if He is susceptible to man’s peering eyes of curiosity? But isn’t that very thing, “the study of God”, the very definition of theology? Isn’t this in and of itself the very audacity of theology?
As I embark on this task of teaching theology, at least in part, I understand this precarious position. An explanation is to be demanded. The guards of God’s majesty, holiness and complete otherness cry, “Halt, who goes there? Who dares to approach the most wonderful?” Before I proceed further I must present the grounds for moving forward. I must present, if you will, a theology for theology.
At first sight, it does appear extremely audacious of me or any other mortal to study God or even the things of God. Yet, this is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of Christian Theology. For Christian Theology finds its origins not in the exertion of grey cell but in the self-revelation of God. This is not the audacity of theology but the grace of theology. God graciously opens Himself up to perceptibility, not according to our determination or desire but according to His own self-determination of revelation.
A theology of theology begins with the knowability of God. Can we know God? Should we know God? And how can we know God? These are valid questions that must be answered. Again it does seem audacious to assume that we can know God. The accusation is laid, “How can finite man know the incomprehensible?” One flaw in this logic is that it confuses comprehensive knowledge with partial knowledge. Just because we cannot know something comprehensively doesn’t mean that we cannot know in part. For indeed, can someone even know me, a simple man, comprehensively? But then what is the basis of the knowability of God? Again, it is His self-determined revelation. The fact of God’s self revelation answers the issues of knowability. Revelation assumes the ability of the other to perceive what is being expressed. We can know. It also demonstrates God’s desire to be known, for one leaves the shadows only for the purpose of being known. In other words, it is permission or even an invitation to become acquainted with Him. We may know God. That leaves the question of, “How can we know God?” Though it is beyond my intent to explore this matter now, it can be simply answered, “Through His revelation.”
With the above arguments, another opposing question arises. If God has revealed Himself, if he has stepped out of the shadows so to speak, is it proper to ignore Him? Is it justified to go on existing as if He, the self-existent One, does not exist? This is the audacity of non-theology. When God presents Himself in a myriad of ways, can any man afford to snub Him, and act disinterested and, finally, to declare that those who acknowledge His existence are prideful?
No, theology does not have to be audacious. However, it often is, and when I say that I include all religions & religious ideas that are founded upon human reason rather than God’s revelation. With God’s revelation, comes the grace of theology. And in the end, isn’t ignoring God the audacity of non-theology? We cannot be so presumptuous as to encroach on God’s prerogatives, but when God bids us to come and to remove our sandals, what more can we do but to come in humility and to know Him as our God?