This article first appeared at The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, www.cbmw.org
Theology is neither a mere theoretical exercise nor a mere academic pursuit; rather, it’s the means by which we grow in acquaintance with God and consequently in godliness. The goal of theology, therefore, is to engage the mind with the ultimate purpose of embracing the heart’s innermost affections, so that we worship God. That’s why, as a pastor, I want to see good theology in my church, and, as a father, I want to see good theology in my home.
But what does good theology look like? For an answer, I’m going to turn to William Perkins (1558–1602), fellow of Christ’s College and lecturer of Great St. Andrew’s Church in Cambridge. Perkins was a prolific author, composing almost fifty treatises on a wide range of biblical, theological, polemical, and practical subjects—all before his death at age forty-four. From all that he wrote, I want to highlight three marks of good theology.
First, Scripture is the basis of good theology.
Perkins celebrated Scripture’s “infallible certainty,” meaning he believed “the testimony of Scripture is the testimony of God himself.” Because Scripture is the very Word of God, Perkins viewed it as the means by which God reveals himself to us, as the means by which God imparts his grace to us, and as the means by which the Holy Spirit effects our union with Christ. Owing to his concept of Scripture’s “infallible certainty,” Perkins adopted the Bible as the axiom of all his thinking and the focus of all his teaching.
That’s what I want for my family. I want my home to be a place where Scripture is cherished. Scripture reveals a glorious God. It reveals a great Savior and a great salvation. It sustains in times of dark affliction, comforts in times of deep sorrow, strengthens in times of danger, and guides in times of confusion. It promises the greatest blessings. It entitles us to the best inheritance. It has God for its author, Christ for its subject, and eternal life for its end. I want my family to handle Scripture as a special treasure, which God has entrusted into the hands of his people.
Second, blessedness is the aim of good theology.
Perkins defined theology as “the science of living blessedly forever.” What did he mean? He affirmed that God is perfect being; therefore, he’s sufficient and satisfied in himself. That being the case, he’s the source of all good. Since he’s the source of all good, he’s the only source of our blessedness; that is to say, we find our greatest good in communion with him. According to Perkins, the blessed person is the one who’s in “a state or condition whereby he is in God’s favor.”
That’s what I want for my family. I want my home to be a place where God is esteemed. We live in a society in which people are desperately trying to find happiness. For the most part, they equate it with externals: possessions, experiences, achievements, relationships, etc. Yet none of these things can satisfy the soul. This place of distinction is reserved for God alone. We find in him all we could ever want. He’s the dearest love, surest friend, highest honor, greatest beauty, and fullest joy. He’s omnipotent in his power, unsearchable in his wisdom, and inconceivable in his grace. His power is ours to protect us, his wisdom to direct us, his mercy to assist us, his grace to pardon us, his love to delight us, and his joy to satisfy us. Our knowledge of this God diffuses into our soul a satisfying peace in this life and a tantalizing taste of what awaits us in glory. I want my family to embrace this wonderful truth: “Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD” (Ps. 144:15).
Third, Christ is the center of good theology.
Perkins affirmed that “our salvation must be built on Christ.” Why? Simply put, our works of righteousness can’t provide any protection against God’s judgment. We’re born under bondage to sin, and we’re unable to free ourselves from its power or penalty. For this reason, we must look to Christ. “True faith,” says Perkins, “makes us one with Christ.” By means of this union, “Christ, with all his benefits, is made ours.” That means we enjoy a new legal status in him. Moreover, we enjoy communion with him in his names, titles, righteousness, holiness, death, and resurrection.
That’s what I want for my family. I want my home to be a place where Christ is savored. He was condemned, so that we might be justified; punished, so that we might be pardoned; cursed, so that we might be blessed; wounded, so that we might be healed; and forsaken, so that we might be accepted. God receives us in Christ—his Beloved. Now, when we think of our sin, we remember Christ’s forgiveness. When we think of our guilt, we remember his merit. When we think of our weakness, we remember his strength. When we think of our pride, we remember his humility. When we think of our vileness, we remember his righteousness. I want my family to know that there’s nothing more soul-satisfying than contemplating Christ and our interest in him.
These three points of divinity are a pretty good theological primer—a necessary foundation for any home.
J. Stephen Yuille