The Art of Theology: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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72 Responses

  1. Linn says:

    This article is reminding me of the difference between playing Chopsticks on the piano vs. Chopin. You need a lot of practice before you get to Chopin (I never did), but you can listen to a master and enjoy it so much more. We need to be more attentive to our “masters” in theology.

  2. josh hamrick says:

    “Some might consider dispensationalism to be such a single category, that is, a single category or framework within which all scriptural interpretation takes place.”

    Yes! I think that is a good definition for Dispensationalism. It is easy to lampoon the caricatures, but I always appreciate accuracy in disagreement.

    Now, I do find disp. helpful as long as it is not taken as the ONLY framework. It offers some good insight to some tough passages, but creates its own problems elsewhere. This is probably true of most “one stop shops” for Theology.

  3. Michael says:

    I had to laugh as this article showed up in my inbox yesterday.
    An hour before, a “theologian” had sent me a YouTube video with a new “revelation” that had come to him.
    The key to the end times, I’ll have you know.
    It was easily exegeted as nonsense and I took care to do so…for his benefit.
    This resulted in an unintelligible email rampage that ended with him declaring that this was “new wine” and I would “drink it with everybody else”.
    It did drive me to some old wine I had …

  4. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    I think to some extent we all have templates that we use for “doing theology”. Mine, for instance is the Incarnation. I think the important thing is not to distort scripture or an area of Theology just to make it fit our template…

  5. Dread says:

    Most of us are theological commentators – that is to say we respond to what original thinkers write.

    Would you say that those who practice theological artistry are the ones whose work stands and exists as original art that must be responded to? That is to say their work lingers and beckons us to answer.

    Also, I often say that great theology is often expressed in poetry better than prose. The poet casts a net and we are all caught in it. A poet flies and we are beckoned to rise to it. The poet causes us to sing and the great songs forbid argument.

    I don’t know how well I’m doing here but What you’ve written here is compelling.

  6. Duane Arnold says:

    Dread

    Yes, artful theology calls for a response. I believe that is why some Christian thinkers, while not always correct in everything they might have written, still, generation by generation, call for a response.

    As to poetry… Yes! It is probably why the NT contains over thirty full or partial hymns set out in poetic metre.

  7. josh hamrick says:

    100% with Dread on that .

    Agreed Duane. The first template I grab I’d call Redemption History. The disp grid may be 3rd or 4th down the list.

  8. Duane Arnold says:

    Linn

    Not knowing that he was a famed conductor, a tourist in NYC asked directions of an elderly gentleman, saying, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The conductor replied, “Practice”.

  9. Linn says:

    Duane, at 8:52,

    Love it!

  10. Linn says:

    One thing I don’t miss from the Jesus Movement was this sort of “Jesus and me” theology, where we were sort of paling around with the Savior. It always seemed slightly irreverent. I guess you could call that populist theology.

  11. Jean says:

    When the term, “evangelical,” was coined as a movement in the Reformation era, the ideal for the early reformers was theology that was Christ centered. For these Reformers this meant that the Bible was to be interpreted in light of and as principally about the advent of Christ and His gospel, and the task and focus of evangelical preaching was to proclaim Christ and His gospel.

    I still think if one is looking for a church, he or she could evaluate the teaching and practice of a church in relation to Christ and His gospel. If one were to consider doctrines in terms of tiers of importance, by keeping the doctrines of Christ and the Gospel front and center, one has a good rule and guide.

  12. josh hamrick says:

    ” by keeping the doctrines of Christ and the Gospel front and center,”

    I’m not sure you could find a church that doesn’t claim to do this.

  13. Jean says:

    Josh,
    I have seen it over and over again. I have visited churches where the sermon text is from the OT and out of a 40 minute sermon, you might here the name Jesus or Christ once or twice taking about 2 minutes out of the 40.

    I was a member of a Methodist church where 75% of the sermons regularly were self improvement. I have watched sermons that Michael has posted where the predominant topic was political.

  14. josh hamrick says:

    Jean – Oh yeah, totally agree. But those churches tend to think they are centered on Jesus and His work.

  15. Michael says:

    Dread,

    That was a masterful response…

  16. Michael says:

    I need to think more about this before the cares of the day overtake me.
    Doctrine alone is dry and lifeless…it only takes on the power when it is presented and practiced properly. I would submit that this was the point of the liturgies and traditions of the church…they translated doctrine into something that could not only be cognitively affirmed, but experienced and lived.
    People get wear of me repeating this quote, but it’s my way of understanding how we act… “what has been explained can be denied, but what is felt cannot be forgotten”…

  17. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    “I would submit that this was the point of the liturgies and traditions of the church…they translated doctrine into something that could not only be cognitively affirmed, but experienced and lived.”

    Yes… simply, yes.

  18. Dan from Georgia says:

    Michael et al…Micheal you said “Doctrine alone is dry and lifeless…” above.

    I am reminded of the writings of Physicist Stephen Hawking and Mathematician Roger Penrose. What little I could read of Penrose seemed so dry compared to Hawking’s writings. Same goes for Carl Sagan. Sagan and Hawking were accessable to many because they knew how to bring their material to life. Hopefully my analogy was not too off from what you are all talking about.

  19. Dan from Georgia says:

    I guess what I was saying is a corrollary to what Michael said…Science alone is dry and lifeless, and writers like Hawking and Sagan brought concepts to life.

  20. josh hamrick says:

    Well said, Michael.

  21. Michael says:

    Dan,

    It’s exactly what I am speaking of…

  22. Thatoneguy777 says:

    @Jean The way you are defining this seems at best a disingenuous rubric. What you seem to be positing is that 2nd Timothy 3:16-17 is invalid unless a sermon has Jesus or the gospel mentioned in it. That is using Jesus and the gospel as if they are magic totems or seals guaranteeing God’s presence at a church. That is extremely myopic and falls under exactly what Duane is talking about in the article. Especially since John 13:35 is Jesus main diagnostic for His presence among His people. Good Doxy is of no help without Good Praxis. I would dare to say that the Pharisees/Saducees are proof that it is better to err a bit more on the side of Good Praxis and Imperfect Doxy. Besides, neither of those two things save us and good praxis is clearly what Jesus cares about most. Also, can we all get over this whole “self-help is evil” schtick? Seriously!? I’m not saying it’s what church should be all about, but good gravy, most of us could actually use some decent therapy whether we believe it or not. Not to mention that it’s a pretty lame way to try and dismiss a denomination without actually dealing with their theology. In your case your basing that dismissal on one church from that denomination.

  23. Dan from Georgia says:

    whew! Thanks Micheal..and well stated by you (your comment at 10:14am).

  24. josh hamrick says:

    What Michael describes above reminds me of Martin Lloyd Jones’ brief description of preaching as “Logic on Fire”.

  25. Michael says:

    It’s an art form…J.I. Packer was a devotee of John Owen. I could listen to or read Dr.Packer interpreting Owen because he always brought a warmth to whatever he said. Reading John Owen directly was a form of !7th century torture…

  26. Michael says:

    Josh,

    This is a side road…but I spent years hearing what a wonderful preacher Lloyd-Jones was….then I forced myself to listen to one of his droning expositions that made me yearn for Jimmy Swaggart…

  27. Michael says:

    The toolbox fascinates me…because I’ve been blessed to have had many different theological influences…from old Pentecostals to Anglo Catholics…and all of them help me in thinking theologically today.
    I think that if we only have one tool we are expert with, there is a ceiling on our spiritual growth.

    I also believe that poets like Wendall Berry are wondrous theologians…

  28. josh hamrick says:

    Yeah, its usually not the heavy-lifters that reach me, but the interpreters of such. CS Lewis, John Phillips, and Brennan Manning are the ones who pull my heartstrings.

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    As you know, in a 12-14 minute homily, in addition to the scripture at hand, I will reference a dozen or so writers, thinkers, theologians and poets… they are in the toolbox. Making use of them to illuminate the scripture is the art…

  30. josh hamrick says:

    This is going to sound bad for Baptists, but if I’m being honest, Criswell was the best example we’ve had of a Pastor / Theologian who could handle the serious aspects of our theology in a way that inspired common people. Now, apparently the good theology didn’t rescue him from being a product of his time in terms of race issues, and it didn’t give him a graceful transition out of the pulpit. And his immediate successors were some of the biggest scumbags to ever grace the evangelical landscape.
    But when any Baptist pastor is aspiring to do what we are supposed to do in the pulpit, Criswell is the marker.

  31. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    He at least turned the corner on race. I’m not sure he ever did with reference to Roman Catholics…

  32. Michael says:

    Josh,

    When I think Baptist, I think Spurgeon…

  33. josh hamrick says:

    Sure, Spurgeon is a huge figure.
    Independent Baptist college that I use to live across the street from (produced Greg Locke), teaches that Calvinism is heresy, to this day has the Bryson book in the bookstore…
    Has a building called “Spurgeon Hall”.

    Go figure.

  34. Jean says:

    Thatoneguy777,

    Hello! Nice to make your acquaintance.

    Let’s look at the very end of the two verses you cite from Second Timothy: “in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

    If the principle task of the Scriptures has to do with “righteousness”, that a man of God may be “complete” and “equipped”, how could Christ not be the focus? Is there any righteousness before God apart from Christ and what He imputes to us through faith?

    Are we not called Christians, named after Christ? If a person who has never been to a Christian church before walks in for the first time, would he be in the right to expect to hear about Christ from Christians in a Christian church?

    I’m surprised this is even a controversial topic. It was never my intention to start a controversy over the preeminence of Jesus Christ in the preaching, teaching and worship of a Christian church.

    If what people want is self-help, please go to a trained and educated professional in the relevant field. Pastors are shepherds not therapists.

    If you want to be a better person, try the Mormons, Islam or Judaism. They’re great a preaching the law. And many of them make fantastic neighbors.

    But, please lets put Jesus Christ and the Gospel back in church 52 weeks a year.

  35. Jean says:

    “I would submit that this was the point of the liturgies and traditions of the church…they translated doctrine into something that could not only be cognitively affirmed, but experienced and lived.”

    I like this idea. Today orthodox liturgies also function as guardrails for the pastor.

    In my tradition, we do not have a separate “childrens church.” We encourage the whole family, from infants to seniors, to participate in the divine service together. We believe that children learn from watching, hearing and participating in the service as their abilities and God’s grace permit.

    Are there any other traditions represented here which encourage families to worship together?

  36. Em says:

    Jean @9:17am…. That explains a lot. 😇

  37. josh hamrick says:

    Right on Jean! You can never focus too much on Jesus.

    We have the entire family worship together. I don’t have a particular conviction about it, except that children should be allowed in service. If there is an alternative that the parents choose, fine, but I am against the forced separation.

  38. Steve says:

    Jean, I can’t really speak for a particular tradition, but I am of the opinion that children should be able to worship together with the adults. I feel strongly about it. There are multiple reasons for this but you have mentioned the most important that children learn best from watching and participating with the adults. But it also goes the other way, that adults can see other children other than their own and be part of a larger extended family to both help and serve as needed but to also watch, learn and observe. When I went to CC for so many years there was a rule that kids under 12 could not enter the sanctuary because to them its distrubting to what the Holy Spirit is doing so much so that it might prevent someone from getting saved. This gave the church service the flavor of a religious college lecture hall for adults only. Kids were put in another building or room never to be seen. If I were a parent at the time, it’s also probably not the safeties place to drop off your kids to other folks that are complete volunteer strangers with no training.

  39. Thatoneguy777 says:

    I wonder how many weeks out of the year Jesus name was spoken and the Gospel was shared at Applegate and Mars Hill? I will state it again. Just because a church does this, is no guarantee of Jesus presence there in every single case. It isn’t wrong to not talk about Jesus if the text before you doesn’t immediately demand it and frankly I have sat under a pastor who is so out of touch with reality that he would do well to take psychology more seriously.

  40. Jean says:

    Steve,

    “But it also goes the other way, that adults can see other children other than their own and be part of a larger extended family to both help and serve as needed but to also watch, learn and observe.”

    You reminded me of something that brings me great joy, but also optimism. Sometimes in church I see, typically a mother, sitting with a small child, moving her fingers with the words in the hymnal as she reads the liturgy and sings the hymns. She is teaching her little 3 year old not only the liturgy of the church (including the prayers and the creeds) but at the same time she is teaching the child to read. I wish my wife and I had done that when my children were little.

  41. Jean says:

    Thatoneguy777,

    “It isn’t wrong to not talk about Jesus if the text before you doesn’t immediately demand it”

    Duane wrote an article about handling major and minor doctrines. I shared what the major doctrine in my church is and how that major doctrine affects everything we do in the service. You can do whatever you want!

    If you asked any pastor in my denomination what every sermon and Bible study requires, he would say Christ. If you can’t find a link to Christ in your text, I would encourage you to keep on studying.

    “Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

    “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me [Jesus],”

    “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

  42. Duane Arnold says:

    In my tradition, and indeed that of Lutherans, Orthodox and Roman Catholics, there is always a reading from one of the Gospels. Thereby, the work and person of Christ is always set before the person giving the sermon or homily. Self-help, politics, etc. can be found elsewhere, Christ and his work, not so much… The Church needs to “stay in its lane”.

  43. CM says:

    Duane,

    The PCA church I attended many, many years had a Gospel reading, an OT reading, and an NT reading. Again, the sermon had the work and person of Christ as the focus.

  44. josh hamrick says:

    My “Redemption History” (I’m sure there is a real name for it. I didn’t invent it.) does point to Jesus in every passage. I don’t read Christ into the passage if He is not there, but the OT is all leading up to Jesus. All the Covenants, Laws, and history of the OT played a part in preparing the way for Jesus. Those are the avenues I explore in a passage.

  45. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    Not sure, but I think the formal “Redemption History” motif comes from Jonathon Edwards – he of “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God”…

  46. josh hamrick says:

    Yes, my overarching hermeneutic is based on the same concept as his book – “Everything in human history from start to finish is subservient to Christ’s work of redemption. Not only can nothing thwart that work, but, in the wisdom of God, all that comes to pass actually serves to advance it.” – from the book description.

    Not generally an Edwards fan, but may have to read that one.

  47. Duane Arnold says:

    I ran across it during my “Banner of Truth” phase… 45 years ago!😁

  48. josh hamrick says:

    Glad you survived that phase 🙂

  49. Michael says:

    When the Reformed talk about redemptive theology, they are talking about Vos…and his offspring at many conservative Reformed seminaries…

  50. Duane Arnold says:

    Funny, the Banner of Truth phase led me to B.B. Warfield. Warfield led me to Calvin and Augustine. Augustine led me to Athanasius and the world of patristics…

  51. josh hamrick says:

    I don’t like agreeing with Reformed guys, but I do think Vos was right on with his hermeneutics. I do suspect he was highly influenced by Edwards, and that neither originated these ideas. Thankful for their work in codifying it, though.

  52. Michael says:

    Josh,

    There are some Reformed guys who I’m convinced have a picture of Vos in their wallets…

  53. Michael says:

    Duane,

    You were supposed to go the other direction… 🙂

  54. josh hamrick says:

    Mostly joking about your survival, Duane. The guys that I know that are most devoted to the Puritans are the hardest for me to bare. 🙂 You don’t carry the snobbery that I usually associate with those folks.

    And part of it is just good natured ribbing on my part towards all things Reformed. Of course, I owe a huge debt to Reformed Theology, but disagree in some key areas which makes me anathema to them. The old Emo Phillips bit, if you know what I mean.

  55. josh hamrick says:

    Michael, the Reformed guys I’ve debated over the years had likely never heard of Vos. They may have had Grudem tattoos, but not Vos.

  56. josh hamrick says:

    And so nobody thinks I’m Ergun Caner, I don’t mean debate in the formal sense. Just too knuckleheads bumping noggins over things neither one of them could ever truly understand.

    Also, I pick at Grudem, and his political mess has made him a public goof in the last few years, but his Systematic Theology really is a laudable work.

  57. CM says:

    Josh,

    A problem with Grudem has been his bit with hard-core complementarianism, but worse is his embrace of the Semi-Arianist doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) (same thing with Bruce Ware). So I would take his Systemic Theology book with a grain of salt.

  58. Michael says:

    I tossed Grudem’s book. He’s a heretic.
    Bruce Ware was helpful until he got caught up in the heresy.

  59. Jean says:

    “Everything in human history from start to finish is subservient to Christ’s work of redemption. Not only can nothing thwart that work, but, in the wisdom of God, all that comes to pass actually serves to advance it.”

    I can’t speak for the original context or any nuances in terminology, but by and large I agree with this statement. I could easily find the assertions in Scripture. I agree with Josh that it isn’t original to Edwards in spirit.

  60. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    Even if I had gone the other way, I would probably have ended up as a Reformed Anglican… does not bear thinking about!😁

  61. Thatoneguy777 says:

    Does no one want to acknowledge the point I’m making here? Or do I really need to “prove” my adherence to sound doctrine first before someone will acknowledge the elephant in the room? That elephant is that it is entirely possible for a church to have it’s doctrine well thought out and defended. Yet, still be totally outside the heart and attitude of Christ! I’m not as well theologically versed as most of you, it’s true. But, the fact that Jean has already attacked me and treated me as if I’m a simpleton and even lightly implied I’m not a Christian should be a HUGE red flag to all of you that maybe your missing something. I’ve been walking with Christ since I was 12 (Now 35) and I spent most of my formative years in a very legalistic CC that still claims the corner on theological interpretation. I’ve seen first hand how a church can have “Good Doxology” and utterly horrible praxis. Some of you may find my presence frustrating, but I’m at a point in my walk with Jesus that I firmly believe there aren’t enough Christian’s willing to point out the sins much of the American church has fallen prey to. Using Jesus name and the Gospel doesn’t necessarily ensure all goes well. I’ve experienced it and that counts for something. I’m no expert, but no idiot either.

  62. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh,

    I left the puritan divines behind decades ago… but I value what I learned!

  63. josh hamrick says:

    Obviously, I disagree with Grudem’s book in several areas, but don’t remember anything in that book that rose the level of heresy. I think ESS was later, and the Trump thing sunk his boat all together.

    But the book is valuable, in that he references other works at the end of every section. Found that very helpful.

  64. Duane Arnold says:

    Thatoneguy777

    “… it is entirely possible for a church to have it’s doctrine well thought out and defended. Yet, still be totally outside the heart and attitude of Christ!”

    I don’t think that there is a person here that would deny this. Most of us have encountered such situations.

  65. josh hamrick says:

    “it is entirely possible for a church to have it’s doctrine well thought out and defended. Yet, still be totally outside the heart and attitude of Christ! ”

    Yes, that’s what we have been pointing out here for decades (14 years for me).

  66. Michael says:

    “it is entirely possible for a church to have it’s doctrine well thought out and defended. Yet, still be totally outside the heart and attitude of Christ! ”

    Which I’ve been saying for over 20 years online…under my real name.

  67. josh hamrick says:

    “But, the fact that Jean has already attacked me and treated me as if I’m a simpleton and even lightly implied I’m not a Christian ”

    Welcome to the family! That’s what Jean does. We love him anyway.

  68. CM says:

    Thatoneguy777,

    You make an important point. A church can cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in a statement of belief and checklist of compliance with the say the Athanasian Creed, but if the members don’t really believe it or live it, or trust it, it is useless.

    Since Duane mentioned the Puritans, I seem to recall they mentioned something about 3 components of a saving faith in Christ:

    Notitia, Assensus, Fiducia. I can point out that even Satan and his demons have the first 2.

  69. Jean says:

    Thatoneguy777,

    “But, the fact that Jean has already attacked me and treated me as if I’m a simpleton and even lightly implied I’m not a Christian ”

    I did no such thing. This whole thread has been about as cordial as they get. Welcome aboard. Your POV is welcome by me, even if I don’t agree with something you write.

  70. Shawn says:

    This reminded me of a time I was called upon to teach a class on Systematic Theology at a CC Bible College. At the time I did not have any real theological education though I graduated from the Bible College. I fumbled my through using basic resources like Ryrie’s Systematic Theology, a Moody Press book on Theology, and Great Doctrines of the Bible by William Evans. I think I was strongly encouraged to use the Calvary Distinctives book as well.

    I must make a confession as a former CC assistant pastor and Bible College teacher I never read the book. The reason is because it stunk. I read the chapters on the Moses Model & Rapture. Once Chuck used Noah as a type of the rapture I chucked the book.

    Anyway back to my point. In that system we were discouraged from interacting with certain theological texts like the Aquina’s Summa or Calvin’s Institutes. The fear was one was heresy and the other was a sure road to expulsion, the 5 points of Calvinism. We never really examined any of the church fathers except for pithy little quotes that supported our stance.

    I have never been one who obeys every human dictate. So I read bits and pieces from various Christian traditions. I discovered we had much more in common than we made it out to be. Also I was surprised to find many of our differences were more nuances than heresy.

    I learned that a lot of other traditions have really well thought out and deep theological responses to subjects most Evangelicals either avoid, ignore,, or poorly explain. I found I enjoyed certain parts of Calvinist and even Roman Catholic Theology. Sorry guys I did not read anything by Anglican authors to include them.

    With all that said while I was on a journey of discovery I should not have taught any course of Theology for I had not acquired the knowledge nor had I any penchant for the art of doing it. Thank God for his unending patience and mercy.

    Duane, these last two articles have been quite enjoyable. They have the hamsters turning the wheels again. Thanks.

  71. Duane Arnold says:

    Shawn,

    Many thanks! When I was a CC pastor, I was teaching when I really needed to be taught. So, I’ve spent the last 40 years “filling my toolbox”…

  72. josh hamrick says:

    If it was the Moody Handbook of Theology by Peter Enns, that book is the best. Amazing wealth of knowledge in a readable format.

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