Theology isn't by necessity a job for me anymore. I recently had someone ask me why I still talked about theological issues and read theological books now that I'm back to being a lawyer. Simple. Theology informs everything else, including the practice of law. The more I thought about it, the more I began to develop a means by which to approach every issue - IBAD.
I just said theology informs everything else; why start with intellect? First, IBAD is a cooler acronym than BIAD. Second (and more importantly), intellect must proceed belief. I'm not saying you have to understand everything before you believe it. However, you have to be able to comprehend that which you believe. This is the foundational issue in epistemology - the study of how we know things. Kant argued that we can't know God because He is too far beyond us. Some theologians like Kaufman follow suit. If that's true, then we don't get to theology because we can't comprehend God or hold a belief about Him. Plantinga has written several books on whether belief is rational, sensible, or justifiable. In any case, intellect must precede belief in this world. Regardless of the topic, I write first about my comprehension of the topic and approach it from an intellectual standpoint.
That said, I won't stop there and rely on my own understanding. I'd rather trust what I know God has said in Scripture and acknowledge Him in the process. Ultimately, He promises to make the path straight if I'll do so. There are a couple of ways I approach belief about a subject. The first is a historical and biblical theology of the topic. I want to know what God said through Moses about a topic. What did he say through the prophets, psalmists, and wisdom writers of Scripture about the subject? What did Jesus say about it? What did the apostles understand? Charting the development of a specific topic through Scripture often provides a great deal of insight into what God was ultimately aiming at, even if He had to start small and develop a concept over centuries to point His people to Christ or for some other divine purpose. I like to take as much of a chronological approach as is possible with the information we have on biblical literature for that reason alone.
Taking it even further is to do a systematic theology of the topic. What does Scripture as a whole say about it? How do we reconcile seemingly different approaches to the topic in varying circumstances within Scripture? Biblical theology often helps develop this systematic approach in my experience. Erickson indicates the first step in systematic theology is to collect the biblical materials; why not do so in a chronological and contextual fashion with strong exegesis? What have other theologians said about the topic throughout history? With these and other questions at hand, I attempt to write what it is I believe and what questions the doctrine answers.
If theology informs everything, then I need to know how to act based on that theology. If I am to obey Scripture and be not only a consumer of the Word but also an executor of the Word (James 1:22), I need to know how to act as a result. This is how I define ethics. Too many ethicists only deal with the big cultural issues of the day: abortion, euthanasia, bioethics, war, poverty, famine... All of these are important, but what about how I should treat people? What about how I should handle my finances? What about what substances I should or should not consume? There are every day questions that Christians all over the world are struggling with that ethicists aren't answering. With whatever I believe or whatever doctrine I systematize, I want to know what to do with it or its all just a waste of time.
I also want to know how I defend that belief. This is the central theme of apologetics, which is so heavily intertwined with philosophy that it brings us right back to where we started. It's a circular process through which I refine what I believe and how I think about it. It's also a necessity. If you can't defend what you believe, you'll soon find yourself either no longer believing it or never talking about it. Neither is an acceptable option when another's eternity is at stake.
So that's what you'll see a lot of on this segment of my website. You'll see how I intellectualize an issue, how I systematize that issue down to a doctrine, what ethical implications that doctrine carries, and a robust defense of the position. Let me conclude by saying that I write for my own benefit primarily as it helps with my own clarity of thought. But, I want it to help others as well. Perhaps the arguments here will help clarify doctrines for you. Better yet, perhaps it will persuade others that the gospel is true, that humanity is desperately sick, that God loves us anyways and sent Jesus to suffer the consequences of that sickness on our behalf so that we could escape quarantine and be with God in heaven forever, and that in the meantime we have a mission to accomplish for His purposes. To these ends I write...
...for His fame,