Systematic Theology on a Cross?

May 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm (Food for Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Chew on this…

I once tried to explain “systematic theology” to a Russian pastor of the Underground Church, who had never seen a whole New Testament.  Systematically, I began to explain to him the teaching about the Godhead, about its unity in three Persons, the teaching about original sin, about the Fall, about salvation, about the Church, about the sacraments, about the Bible as infallible revelation.

He listened attentively.  When I had finished, he asked me a most surprising question:  “Have those who thought out these theological systems and wrote them down in such perfect order ever carried a cross?”  He went on.  “A man cannot think systematically even when he has a bad toothache.  How can a man who is carrying a cross think systematically?  But a Christian has to be more than the bearer of a heavy cross: he shares Christ’s crucifixion.  The pains of Christ are his, and the pains of all creation.  There is no grief and no suffering in the whole world which should not grieve him also.  If a man is crucified with Christ, how can he think systematically?  Can there be that kind of thought on a cross?

“Jesus Himself thought unsystematically on the cross.  He began with forgiveness; He spoke of a paradise in which even a robber had a place; then He despaired that perhaps there might be no place in paradise even for Him, the Son of God.  He felt Himself forsaken.  His thirst was so unbearable that He asked for water.  Then He surrendered His spirit into His Father’s hand.  But there followed no serenity, only a loud cry.  Thank you for what you have been trying to teach me.  I have the impression that you were only repeating, without much conviction, what others have taught you.”

~Richard Wurmbrand, 1909-2001, founder of VOM, “With God in Solitary Confinement

…and tell us what you think.


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  1. Vanessa said,

    I agree. Theology is meaningless until we have felt the Cross.

  2. Maiden Princess said,

    I read that in VOM newsletter and thought it was very good! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Living in the Glow of His Love,
    Maiden Princess

  3. Kerra said,

    I would agree that when you’re under persecution, you’re not thinking about deep theology, but I don’t think that you should throw out systematic theology altogether. It is very important that we dig deep into the Gospel and what we believe so that we can give a good account of why we believe what we believe. But I do know that if I were to be beheaded for my faith, I wouldn’t be thinking too much about election to the Nth degree. 🙂

  4. Lauren said,

    Excellent points, ladies.

    It seems to me that this man’s point was that we leisurely Christians in the West have time to indulge ourselves in deep, systematic, theological study. Not that it’s wrong or unprofitable. But those who are actually out there dying for the Lord Jesus have a very different perspective. Their theology isn’t hammered out on paper, but in blood, sweat, and tears, and hours of meditation on whatever Scriptures they can get their hands on. And so I guess instead of thinking we are so fortunate or (dare I say it) advanced in our thinking, we ought to look to our brothers and sisters who are living examples of good theology in action and imitate their faith.

    And this, I believe, is the strongest statement of all: “I have the impression that you were only repeating, without much conviction, what others have taught you.” How do we avoid being what this man describes? Surely we must search the Scriptures for ourselves to see if what we are hearing from others is true. But beyond that we must live out what we see in the Scriptures–including all that it means to deny ourselves and take up our cross, and not just keep our theories tied up in a pretty bow on the shelf. I think that’s what this quote is getting at, or at least that’s how it hit me. (And I’m as much a random commenter as any of you on this–Abigail posted the quote!!) 😉


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