Sunday, February 8, 2015

Johann Gerhard on the Purpose and Definition of Theology

I think it's fair to say this isn't the most common position in modern academic theology:

"The purpose of theology is either principal and most important or intermediate. The principal and most important purpose is the glorification of God. You see, it is for this reason that God revealed himself in his Word. He communicates theological wisdom to people for this purpose: that they may know him rightly and honor, worship, and invoke him in this life and in that life to come. . . .

"The intermediate and approximate goal is either internal (information for man for his eternal salvation) or external (the actual attainment of blessedness or eternal life) . . . . Therefore whatever does not lead or draw one to this goal either directly or at least indirectly, either immediately or mediately, that does not pertain to theological knowledge. . . .

"Theology considered systematically and abstractly is the teaching drawn from the Word of God that instructs man in true faith and pious living for eternal life. Theology considered conditionally and concretely is the God-given condition conferred on man by the Holy Spirit through the Word. This condition not only instructs man in an understanding of the divine mysteries through the illumination of his mind in such a way as to draw salutarily that which he understands into a good condition of his heart and accomplishment of his work, but it also makes him fit and ready for those divine mysteries. It makes him a path for informing others of salvation, a path for setting heavenly truth free from the corrupting influences of gainsayers so people glow with faith and good works and are drawn to the kingdom of heaven."

—Johann Gerhard, Theological Commonplaces: On the Nature of Theology and Scripture, trans. Richard J. Dinda (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 26.7, 31.12 (pp. 40, 42)

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