Basic Principles for “Doing Theology”

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Theology is the science of God, and one that primarily concerns the study of sacred texts. Religious doctrines are like scientific theories, but scripture is the objective data we scrutinize to ultimately validate or invalidate our theories. Naturally, our axiomatic assumptions, cultural biases, lenses of lived experience, and finite / depraved perspectives can distort our ability to “do theology.”

As I continue my extended theological thought experiment to discover exactly what I believe and why, I must identify some key and fundamental principles. These are assumptions that are for my purposes non-negotiable and will serve as the foundation for all that is to come – they are like a compass in my pocket that will help chart my course and get back on track when I start to go astray.

1. “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

I have discovered that all theological attempts that do not begin with reverence for God soon go off the rails into heretical and/or blasphemous territory. This shall be avoided. We do not place God in a box to contain him nor on an autopsy table to dissect him. Attempting to discern some of the hidden things of God can be like splitting an atom.

2. “If I … know all mysteries and all knowledge … but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)

This verse does not state that understanding all mysteries is a bad thing – not at all. The only explicitly unknowable things referred to in the Bible that I am aware of are the return date and time of Jesus Christ and what the seven thunders say in Revelation 10:4. Everything else is fair game. But, I am not on this journey for the purpose of tearing others down or of pridefully elevating my knowledge over others.

3. Truth is basically defined as what corresponds to reality.

In other words, truth is whatever is actually, really real. Our perceptions, understanding, and interpretation of that reality may be flawed, limited, or in some cases non-existent. But the truth is out there! There is an objective reality totally independent of our perception and interpretation of it. It defines us, we do not define it.

4. All scripture quoted will be from the New American Standard Bible, with a couple notable changes.

I own and enjoy many different translations of the Bible, but my personal favorite is the New American Standard Bible. This is due to its higher reading level and the fact that it is the most literal of all mainstream translations. I will quote exclusively from the NASB 1995 text update to avoid picking and choosing whatever translation best fits my desired interpretation for any given verse.

However, I will be following the ESV in not capitalizing divine pronouns when there is no manuscript-evidence suggesting to do so. Also, I will translate LORD in the Old Testament into Yahweh every time, and swap in the even more literal footnotes of the NASB when available.