Gospel Theology – Moving beyond Systematics

gospel-theology.gif There is often something quite arrogant about Calvinists.  I think many people gag against the 'know-it-all-ism' that exudes from these (often) academic theologians who seem to have God in a nice neat little box.  Personally, I often warn people of the dangers of reformed theology, because like a kid with a new sword they end up hurting more Christians swinging this new sharp blade without any skill.  In many circles, this season can last a lifetime before their reformed theology truly helps them worship God for the grace that was shown them, accept their new identity, be transformed by the gospel and sent on mission.  I believe a major stumbling block in diving into reformed theology is that it typically begins with systematic theology.

The danger is systematics are a normative expression of theology.  That is, it is true but often misses how we should absorb the information.  For example, it is true to say, "God elects" but this defines God, we are the benefactor of God's grace which changes us in many ways.  This is the challenge, systematics usually leave out the full gospel picture of how this God's grace works it's way out in our life. This is what Francis Schaeffer saw as the great spiritual crisis in his book True Spirituality.  Schaeffer saw that many people who claimed to uphold orthodox theology had very little true spirituality.  Schaeffer realized he too, although he had the doctrines down, lacked spiritual transformation.  For all his knowledge, Schaeffer began to see true spirituality is not just a matter of the mind, but a matter of the heart.

This is where I found a great chart in the GCA Church Manual from Steven Childers.  In this chart, The Radical Grace of God in the Gospel: The Whole Gospel for the Whole Person! (pdf) Childers outlines systematic 'precepts' in a more complete gospel picture.  I'd encourage you to download it and check it out.  Here is one example:

The Predicament

The Problem

The Provision

The Promise

The Precept

The Picture

Alienation: You Were Alienated

Shame, Alienation

Christ was Alienated

You Are Chosen


A New Security

It is in this type of presentation, theology goes beyond systematics.  A whole gospel picture begins to emerge as we begin to talk about things like election and justification.  Rather than jumping into TULIP, a conversation that deals with the predicament, problem, provision, promise, precept and new picture would provide the listener a greater understanding of who God is, how He works and His great love and grace.  This is the grand story that people can see through redemptive history as told in the Bible.