The Theologian's Progress
We are all theologians. Even the worst of us, the atheist, is a theologian; granted, it is through denial, but he is a theologian nonetheless: He has something to say about God. Our task, however, is to be good and accurate theologians who are scrupulously transmitting the truth of God to a world and a Church in great need.
The theological world is filled with theories; each theory has a schism; each schism a denomination; each denomination a prejudice, and each prejudice has churches that are willing to go to war with each other to prove themselves the correct prejudice. How do we start then? Shall we start with a poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1872)? Yes, we shall! Read the poem and you will discover that it does not provide any solution but it does explain our dilemma.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried: "Ho!—what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 't is mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'T is clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!
Now do you see our problem? I have at least a dozen sets of theology books—old ones, recent ones, sets with which I agree, ones with which I disagree, ones that illuminate my mind, ones that confuse and obfuscate—But there they sit. All of them! All of them are like those blind men of Indostan.
Fortunately, God gave us a book full of the truth that He wants us to know; and, although we live in a divisive culture, He has communicated one set of theological truths. Our task is to learn that singular truth. We are to eat the fish that God provided and spit out the bones that we added. Seems simple enough.
Since this is my attempt to transmit God’s theological truth, here is how I will proceed: I will define each of the systems of organizing God’s Grand Unifying Theory. Next, I will evaluate the various systems—both the weaknesses and strengths. Finally, we will see together how these two main systems (Dispensational theology and Covenantal theology) work together to advance God’s Kingdom. We will start with Dispensational Theology since I have a long history with it.It does not make it the correct system by being first, but we must start somewhere. So let’s go!