Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Luke 11:46
When Jesus showed up on earth, He blew away the religious elite. And not in a way they liked. They trotted out elements of their systematic theology in an attempt to baffle Him, and Jesus bent them permanently out of shape. He healed the blind, and they were torqued that He broke their Sabbath to do it. They generously offered to forgive someone seven times and Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven.
When I first began to blog my support of LGBTQ, someone recommended I read a well-known systematic theologian for some perspective on other viewpoints. I already understood those views well but more fundamentally, I reject systematic theology, and I’ll tell you why. (This might help as you face theological questions yourself.)
Let’s use “systematic theology of marriage” as an analogy. Take Jane and John Doe here. To have a happy marriage according to systematic theology, John must to do this, and Jane must do that (all laid out in this 3-volume set!). Just do those things in the right time in the right order, and you will have a right marriage.
But marriage is not system—not like a computer program—because it’s a relationship with a person. Yes, some principles are helpful (like serving the other more than yourself, and treating them as you’d like to be treated), but to systemize a relationship is to cut the heart out of it.
We see that in countless marriage—from general love and respect to a specific to-do list (really) to keep your marriage strong.
But these don’t work on their own, regardless of how well they’re played. Why? Because a relationship is alive. To systemize it is to kill a living thing.
God is also a living being offering a live relationship. Even more, God is infinitely more expansive than a human being, and we think we can systemize Him. We’re talking about God. Can you think of a more absurd endeavor?
God will not submit to a system—certainly not one we can recognize! At one point, Moses was told to hit the rock to get water, but the next time he was told simply to speak to it. We see the reasoning in retrospect, but Moses couldn’t possibly see it on the ground. What’s the lesson for Moses—and us? Listen to God and follow His voice.
Here’s a system that works well to understand people: an autopsy. You want to know what’s going on? You cut that thing open, map out the interior, and check everything. You can diagnose the problem and write it all out on the chart.
But there’s a critical distinctive of an autopsy: it works best on a dead person. Because a living person is changing and growing and is not the same today as yesterday. In fact, and an autopsy will kill them. Systematic theology is like an autopsy on a dead God.
Instead, the real God invites us into a living dynamic relationship with Him as a living God. That’s what I want! Everything else flows from that.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15