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Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Necessity for Systematic Theology -- Chalcedon

By Rev. R.J. Rushdoony – bio

Last Saturday, while travelling to Los Angeles, I listened on my car radio to an evangelist broadcasting from the other end of the country. While claiming to preach the word of God as a Bible-believing Christian, he preached a faith I could not recognize as Scriptural, nor the God I hear speak in the Bible. 

This man assured his converted and unconverted listeners that "God is always on your side." He also spoke of God as our "Daddy" in heaven, rich in resources and eager and anxious to help us if we only would allow Him to do so. I could not recognize in what he preached the sovereign God of Scripture nor anything that resembled His commanding word, the Bible. The evangelist was a humanist who was using, or trying to use, God as the greatest possible resource available to man; central to his thinking was man and man's needs. He lacked any systematic theology of God; instead, there were traces in his brief message of a theology of man as the true center and the god of things.

Very briefly, systematic theology says that God is God. It declares that, because God is sovereign, omnipotent, all-wise, all-holy, and knows from eternity all that He ordains and decrees, therefore there is no hidden possibility or potentiality in God, but that God is both fully self-conscious and totally self-consistent. Only with such a God is systematic theology possible. Wherever faith in the sovereignty of God declines, there too systematic theology goes into an eclipse.

The word systematic in systematic theology means, among other things, first, that it is a comprehensive, unified statement of what Scripture as a whole teaches about God. The revelation of God in Scripture is brought together in summary and comprehensive form, and the results of Biblical theology, the exegesis and analysis of Scripture and its meaning, are organized and set forth.

Second, the word systematic means that the totally sovereign God, who does not change (Mal. 3:6), is truly knowable. He is always the same. Men change character, grow and regress, but God is always the same, totally self-consistent and absolutely sovereign. Only about such a God is a systematic word possible. This is why modern theology cannot produce systematics. Karl Barth's position was a denial of the possibility of systematics. 

Thus, he wrote,

But it is not "the Almighty" who is God; we cannot understand from the standpoint of a supreme concept of power, who God is. And the man who calls "the Almighty" God misses God in the most terrible way. For the "Almighty" is bad, as "power in itself" is bad. The "Almighty" means Chaos, Evil, the Devil. We could not better describe and define the Devil than by trying to think this idea of a self-based, free, sovereign ability....God and "power in itself" are mutually exclusive. God is the essence of the possible; but "power in itself" is the essence of the impossible.1

Barth's God is not the God of Scripture who declares, "I am the Almighty God" (Gen. 17:1). Barth's God is a limiting concept, the product of a man's imagination. Barth gives us only a systematic exposition of his unbelief; he cannot give us a systematic theology of the God of Scripture.

Similarly, Haroutunian held that systematic theology was impossible, because such a doctrine of God cannot do "justice to the complexities of human life."2 The center of Haroutunian's theology is human life: the God of Scripture cannot in any degree nor in any sense impinge on the sovereignty of autonomous man. Hence, for him systematic theology is an illusion,3 because the God of systematic theology is by definition excluded from all consideration. FINISH READING >