A little while ago, we launched TTS Essentials - a brisk walk through some foundational Biblical truths, aimed at the busy believer who'd find Sunday evenings tricky to attend, or the Foundations course too big a commitment.
I've been really grateful to all those who have made it so far. Last night we looked at the doctrine of the Trinity. It's such a privilege to study these things at length. We've got one more Essentials session scheduled between now and the end of our summer term - we'll be meeting on Wed 3rd July at Freedom Church, from 7.15pm. If you've not been before, we'd love to see you!
So far I've not uploaded any notes for the Essentials sessions, primarily because they offer a modified version of what is taught in the longer Foundations course. However, after being asked about it last night, I've realised that it might actually be helpful to provide the notes here. Find below a copy of everything we've looked at so far!
For the first time, Ligonier (working with ComRes) have conducted the same survey here in the UK. You can download the full report below.
The survey asked questions of the general population, of self-described 'Christians', of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelicals. ('Evangelical' is here defined along the lines of David Bebbington's famous quadrilateral definition - it's not a perfect measurement, but it's become a go-to for students.) In total, ComRes surveyed 2000+ people.
There are some encouraging findings here, for example:
There's lots to be thankful for here! Let's not miss that. Whilst we may prefer some of those numbers (if not all of them!) to be nearer 100%, there's still an overwhelming consensus on many theological fundamentals.
There are, however, several findings that are deeply concerning. Some of these even outright contradict what was previously affirmed. Human beings, after all, are complex, and we all have blind spots. For example:
Allow me to make a few quick observations.
First, these latter statistics are undoubtedly alarming, but I do not mean to look down my nose at those surveyed. At TTS (especially in the first session) we're often at pains to point out that theology is for everyone. Theology ought to be worshipful - a way of rejoicing in the life-giving truths of God. The problem is that theology is not seen like this. It's seen as deathly, divisive, pharisaical, etc. Is it any wonder, then, that we're now discovering such a level of theological illiteracy in the Church? To the extent that theologians have made it seem that theology is only for the intellectually gifted, or have scoffed at popular efforts to be theological, we must repent.
Second, let's again acknowledge that human beings are complex. We're not robots; we can hold seemingly contradictory views without realising it. For example, 93% of UK Evangelicals believe in the Trinity - and yet (at the same time) 74% believe that Jesus is part of God's creation. These two things cancel each other out, and yet there we have it. Are 74% of Evangelicals actually closet Arians, who believe that there was a time when the Son was not? I highly doubt it. It's simply not clear for many what the Incarnation means, and what the Trinity actually involves. My 'hunch' is that the intent is orthodox, even if the expression is imperfect. God's people must be equipped and trained so that the former matches the latter.
Third, if it wasn't clear already, it's now certainly demonstrable - we need theologians in service to God's people. We need preachers and teachers who marry pastoral care with a passion for deeper things. One must repent of the assumption that theology is "not for me", and take every thought captive for Christ. It may be that God is moving this kind of theological study out of the academy, and into the context of the local Church. That's certainly the vision for Theology That Sings - to serve God's people, and to help give us a common theological language, one that will equip leader and congregant alike.
The great martyr-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
The challenge is not whether we do theology - we all do theology. You cannot say a single word about God or life or creation without doing theology. Even insisting on God as transcendent, above all categories and boxes, is a kind of theology. We're all theologians; we have no choice in that.
The challenge is whether we (as God's people) do theology well.
The challenge is whether we (as theologians) serve God's people.
The challenge is whether (in the words of Helmut Thielicke) we allow theology to become a coat of mail that suffocates us, or a praise song of ideas.
We relaunched the TTS Foundations course last night - a great first session, many thanks to all those who turned up.
Using the first two words of the Nicene Creed as our skeleton ("We Believe"), we asked ourselves: What is theology? Why is it important from God's perspective? How is it done badly, and how can it be done well? Here's our working definition: Theology is concerned with speech ABOUT God - with the speech OF God - as well as our experiencing life WITH God.
You can find notes over at our hub for TTS notes here, or you can download / view them below as a PDF.
On Sunday gone, Fiona led us through 2 Tim 2:14-26. It's a wonderful text in its own right, but Fiona encouraged us to see a Godly message to those who care for his truth.
We are to rightly handle his word, to do so with boldness, but also with kindness and gentleness.
Fiona has provided us with some notes, which you can find below. These contain a list of apposite quotations from the commentaries of Calvin and Henry, as well as her own commentary on 2 Tim 2:25-26 in particular.
Welcome to the Theology That Sings blog. Here you'll find news of upcoming events, as well as notes and notices.