Friday, January 07, 2011

"Off-the-Peg Theology" - by Dr Stanley Jebb

Dr Stanley Jebb has written an excellent blog article today called; "Off-the-Peg Theology" which demonstrates his amazing academic insight. He critiques the assumption that so often we accept without question theological statements;

"The trouble is many young men go to theological college and accept without question the ready-made theology that is handed down to them. That is what I call “off-the-peg theology”. Rather I use the term to highlight the fact that so often statements of theology are accepted without question as long as they come from within out own circle".

Rather than;

"Unlike the Bereans, we do not search the Scriptures to see whether those things are so (Acts 17:11)".

Dr Jebb calls this theology an alternative phrase;

"Perhaps “hand-me-down theology” would be a better description. It is only too easy to accept, and even vigorously defend, a theology which we have never carefully compared with Scripture".

Stanley Jebb is correct - many theological phrases have become popular and indeed trendy in these days. Particularly phrases like; "Reformed" or "Evangelical" and sometimes "Charismatic" (although Dr Jebb didn't include the last!). But what do they really mean?

"In these days we have become rather careless in our use of such terms as ‘Reformed’ and ‘Calvinistic’. The word ‘Reformed’ is bandied about almost as though it were a synonym of ‘orthodox’, or a shorthand term for “really, really sound.”

Do we really know what John Calvin wrote in his massive Institutes? Or have we merely read John Piper or Mark Driscoll's popularized If we do not, then why are we so eager to adopt the label for ourselves? The message is excellent and clear - SCRIPTURE is our final authority and we should make every effort to search it Berean-like and see "if these things are so". If aspects of our cultural heritage do not tie up with Scripture then we should be asking why are we holding to them?


Mark Heath said...

good post Dan. He's put his finger on a real problem. Accepting an "off-the-peg" theology doesn't just save you from thinking for yourself, it can also become a way people go about "ladder-climbing" - you've got to accept your denomination's/church's package deal of theology to have a ministry future with them.

Did you see the video of John Stott talking about Charles Simeon that was blogged a few weeks ago. Very interesting that Simeon strongly resisted adopting theological "systems" such as Calvinism or Arminianism because he felt they both made people attempt to modify Scripture to make it fit into the system.

I was also impressed with how willing Lloyd-Jones was to challenge the status quo of reformed indepedent evangelicals in Joy Unspeakable.

John Immel said...

Actually this is one of my greatest criticisms of the resurgent Reformed Theology movement.

Very Very Very few people have actually read any of Calvin’s Institutes, and the few who have do not understand its real purpose because he was so good at beating his intellectual adversaries about the head.

They really get their reformed doctrine from a summation of the Synod of Dortdrecht or Westminster. And that assumes they even know what those two events are. The vast percentage of people get their theology from Pilgrims Progress and two dozen Sunday sermons that came out of a Calvinist primer that was little more than the “See Spot Run.” brand of theology.

For the most part the modern advocates have repackaged the theological construct, and sanitized the historic player’s lives. We would never tolerate the, dare I say, deviant personalities that those on the forefront of the Reformation movement in ministry today.

Most newbie’s to theological studies are handed the prepackaged assumptions about the doctrines, and if they ever dare challenge the assumptions they are berated for daring to challenge "time tested truths." The logic goes something like: “Some of the greatest minds in the world have wrestled with these lofty ideas how you dare consider yourself superior to the task.”

Who has the nerve to suggest they are in fact capable of challenging the likes of Calvin. … (gasp) …. Luther.Who has the stones to say maybe they were wrong? The bottom line is people are bullied into accepting the historic conclusions without any critical review.

It is an insidious path. I detail this specific issue in my upcoming book Blight in the Vineyard.