What Is Theology? Part 2

What Is Theology? Part 2

What is Theology? Part 2

This is part 2 of a two-part series. For part 1, click here.

4. The Doctrine of Christ

The doctrine of Christ, or Christology, follows closely on the heels of the doctrine of humanity. The doctrine of Christ is all about who Jesus was and what Jesus did. All true Christians believe that Jesus was and is 100% God and 100% human; this, however, is difficult to understand. If Jesus is God, then He’s omnipresent; if Jesus is a man, then He’s not omnipresent. Further, God knows everything, so was Jesus lying when He claimed that He didn’t know something in Matthew 24.36? Christology, which I personally find to be the most difficult of all eight doctrines, seeks to explain how Jesus can really be fully God and fully human. Jesus’s status as the God-man is essential to His role as redeemer. As the God-man, Jesus has the ability to be the mediator between God and humanity. The mediator must, by definition, have a foot in both realms. Since Jesus is God, He can reveal God to humanity and live the perfect life which we are unable to do. Since Jesus is man, He can identify with us, bear our punishment, and represent us before the Father.

5. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Prior to His ascension into heaven, one of Christ’s promises was that He would send the Holy Spirit to believers. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit, or pneumatology (pronounced with a silent p), describes what the Holy Spirit does.[1] Whereas Christ opened the door for salvation, the Holy Spirit calls believers to salvation. Once saved, the Holy Spirit seals the believer until the day of redemption. The Holy Spirit then leads the new believer in a new lifestyle in which the believer is slowly transformed into the image of Christ. This takes place through spiritual gifts, conviction over sin, special direction from the Holy Spirit to the believer, developing godly habits, destroying sinful habits, etc. Overall, the Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity that is present in and works within the lives of individual believers.

6. The Doctrine of Salvation

Next is the doctrine of salvation, or soteriology. This is a hotly debated doctrine. If you’ve ever heard people debating Calvinism, this is the doctrine they were debating. We know from previous doctrines that we are all sinners, that God saves those who believe through Christ’s sacrificial death, and that the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to the lives of believers. The doctrine of salvation asks how and in what order all of this takes place. Consider this: If God wants all people to be saved (2 Peter 3.9), then how come some people don’t get saved? Since God knows everything, He knew that Jones (a made-up man) would not get saved; so, did Christ die for Jones too? If so, it seems like Christ wasted something; however, on the other side, if Christ didn’t die for Jones, then it’s hard to see how God really wanted Jones to get saved in the first place. Soteriology also discusses the impact of salvation on the life of a believer. A few terms are of utmost importance: adoption, justification, sanctification, and glorification. These all refer to how the Christian life goes. When we are saved, we are adopted by God into the family of God and now have a right relationship with God. We are at the same time justified, which means we’re declared innocent before God. However, we still act like a bunch of heathens; so, we begin the lifelong process of sanctification in which the Holy Spirit remakes us in Jesus’s image. When we die, we go to heaven where sanctification is instantly completed in glorification, which means that we are now perfect.

7. The Doctrine of the Church

Ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the church, is all about what the church is, what the church does, and why the church exists. There are two churches: the local church and the universal Church (the capital C is important). The local church is the way that we see, understand, and experience the church on this side of eternity. Within the local church, there are different roles; the pastor has a role, the deacons have roles, and the members have roles. Ecclesiology explains who should be in these roles and what they should do. Local churches practice the two ordinances: baptism and Communion (AKA Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist). The point of the local church is for followers of Jesus to encourage, equip, and challenge each other in their walk with Jesus through personal relationships. The universal, however, Church is the way that God sees the Church. God knows which members of the local church are real Jesus followers and which are phony. The universal Church is the real Church composed of all true believers from all places spread throughout all times. If you’re following Jesus, then you’re a member of the universal Church whether or not you’re a member of a local church. If you aren’t following Jesus, then you can be a member of as many local churches as you want, but you aren’t a member of the universal Church.

8. The Doctrine of Last Things

Finally, the doctrine of last things, also known as eschatology, answers questions about how the world will end, judgment day, and what heaven and hell are like. How the world will end is a hot topic for popular level theologies and lay theologians; this doctrine, however, is much more ambiguous and much less important than the previous seven doctrines. What everyone agrees on and what the Bible teaches is that Jesus is coming back. There are, however, different systems that attempt to describe how exactly Jesus’s return will happen. Here are the three main systems: amillennialism, post-millennialism, and pre-millennialism. The main difference between each system is the understanding of how Revelation 20.1-3’s reference to the 1000-year period relates to Christ’s return. Amillennialists believe that Jesus is simply going to come back one day. According to amillennialists, the 1000 years in Revelation 20 doesn’t really mean 1000 literal years, this number is merely figurative. Post-millennialists, which are virtually non-existent in the modern day, believe that we will usher in the millennium by spreading the Gospel; after we’ve spread the Gospel and the world has accepted Christ as savior, Christ will return. Pre-millennialists come in many different flavors. The basic idea for them is that Christ will return before the millennium; some believe in a rapture and seven years of tribulation, though you can be a pre-millennialist without the rapture and tribulation.

If you’ve read this blog and the previous one, which you can access here, then you’ve gotten a rough overview of all the highpoints—and by high, I mean Mt. Everest high—of Christian theology in under 2500 words. Now the big question: Which doctrine do you need to learn more about?

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Notes & Sources

[1] The Holy Spirit’s identity is usually explained in the doctrine of God’s discussion of the Trinity.

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