Monday, June 19, 2017

Theology, worship, and rabbit trails


Not too long ago, I started working my way through John Frame’s Systematic Theology with a group of folks from my church. And by not too long ago, I mean about a week ago. This book is an absolute beast, and not just because you can use as a home security system. It’s a big book, a meaty book. I’m only about 100 pages in and there isn’t a single page where I haven’t underlined, marked, or commented on at least one entire paragraph.

(Seriously, outside of my Bible, this stands to be one of the most marked-up books I own.)

Part of this is because I love how Frame takes readers through his thought process. One paragraph, commenting on Isaiah 25 and angels and demons in the context of the universal covenant1 vs the Edenic covenant, was fascinating to me, particularly because of where he ended. After working through a couple of options, he comes to a fairly simple conclusion: it doesn’t really matter anyway because all the covenants are applications of the universal. (Actually, you probably have to read it to get why I enjoyed this.)

Rabbit trails aside, I think the thing I most appreciate in this giant book so far is the sense of worship that comes through on every page. This isn’t a dry read—it is devotional. Frame is in awe of his Lord and Savior as he explores the incredible truths of God. And that’s what good theology should inspire. Theology should always lead to worship, both in the one writing and in the one reading.

C.S. Lewis understood this well. In God in the Dock, Lewis shared that he often found doctrinal books more helpful than devotional books for this very reason. There was something about sitting down with a book of this nature, “working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hands” would make the heart sing.2

That’s what I love about good, biblically faithful doctrine. Exploring it leads you down some interesting rabbit trails, without question. It makes you wrestle with hard questions. It forces you to confront your own “smallness” in light of God’s “bigness”. It always brings you to the place God intended—to your knees in praise to him.

  1. In a nutshell, God’s lordship over all creation and the covenant between the persons of the Trinity to save sinners.
  2. Thanks to my friend David for bringing up this quote in the discussion group he’s leading through Frame’s Systematic Theology.

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