What Do You Think?
Saleama A. Ruvalcaba
Doing a study on early church fathers, something struck me. They were thinkers. They read the Bible and it challenged them. They read the Bible and some of them changed the course of religious history. Today there are no shortage of “Bible teachers”, but I wonder how much time we spend trying to inspire people for their own self-serving needs, rather than challenge people to critically think about the Bible. I also wonder, as Bible teachers, how much time we spend inspiring people for our own self-serving needs as well. God was the central focus to early and modern thinkers. What can we learn from them today?
- Justin Martyr’s most significant idea was the way God relates to the world and to Christ. He also asserts that Christ is the Logos and Divine reason.
- Tertullian regarded some of Justin’s teachings as too passive, whereas he taught in a bolder stance on Christianity. His major contribution was that of the Trinity. He coined the term Trinity that is still used today.
- Peter Abelard taught that an act alone is not a sin, rather our decision to sin is where sin starts.
- Thomas Aquinas considered Romans 1:20 the base for his ideas on natural theology.
- Martin Luther’s thoughts revolved around two ideas; the authority of Scripture and salvation by faith alone through Christ. There was only one source of theology as far as Luther was concerned – the Bible. Nothing else.
- Gotthold Lessing realized that many theological issues are really historical ones.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew we were a world progressively coming away from religious faith. He argued, it’s not enough to provide some knowledge of the Christian faith, we must live the Christian faith, even in the modern era.
- Francis A. Schaeffer was adamant that our society, starting from the Renaissance, has turned increasingly humanistic.
This is simply a short list of some of the world’s greatest thinkers and this list doesn’t even scratch the surface of their deep intellect. The Bible was much more than a collection of stories to inspire their intimate well-being. It’s not to say everyone agrees with their thoughts, but the bottom line is, God was not their personal genie-in-a-bottle. The Word of God was critiqued. These men were controversial in their thoughts. They penetrated cognition.
How are you teaching people today? Do you throw out one verse of Scripture then spend twenty-minutes on personal stories? Let us consider 1 Corinthians 15:57 “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Someone might be able to speak an entire sermon on this verse alone on how God gave them favor and victory in frivolous situations all the while praising God. People will leave church inspired for the afternoon. When studying commentaries on this verse, it’s speaking of our victory in salvation and the resurrection of Christ. The great thinkers of our day might try to dissect Paul’s thoughts word-for-word. If we want to go one step further, Paul wrote Corinthians to the church in Corinth who were described as one of the most confused congregations Paul addressed. Great teachers know better than to allow one verse of Scripture to stand alone when teaching. The proper context of Scripture cannot be avoided. It’s not to say God is not with us in our daily living. Yes we can use Scripture as promises every day, but it’s not okay to become so self-absorbed we only read Scripture for our personal advantage. As Bible teachers, it’s also not okay to relegate ourselves to glorified motivational speakers in the name of Jesus. As a Bible teacher, ask yourself a question; are you trying to gain followers or teach the Bible with conviction and without compromise?
When I write, I am speaking to myself as well. As Bible teachers we want to inspire people because we want them to know the love of God. I pray to be more responsible in this area by not becoming too comfortable with inspirational feel good messages. I too, pray I will allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me and teach rich content that will challenge not only myself, but those I influence. I desire to be a great theological thinker – and therefore, I desire no less from those whom I impact. We have seen first hand that our world can change when God raises a bold teacher – who evokes the mind to critically understand the magnificence of our creator. Let us not cheapen His greatness. Rather – let us fully engulf ourselves into understanding Him deeper – and revolutionize our world.