Friday, November 26, 2010

Theologians Need Good Anthropology

     Here at IHOP it seems that everyone loves theology, a blessing of blessings, as what one thinks and feels about God is more vital than anything else.  However, what I have noticed lacking is understanding the value of  anthropology (understanding or study of the nature of man) and sociology (the understanding or study of human interaction), from a biblical viewpoint of course.  What this seems to lead to is people with great ideas that are difficult for the intended recipients of those ideas to acquire.
     So, you've got a smart guy with all sorts of understanding on the knowledge of the cross, but He has almost no idea what the purpose of that knowledge is for the human soul.  Why is the knowledge of Jesus' resurrection vital for the human soul to have?  What freedoms are granted to it by this knowledge?  How will a human being interact poorly with other people without this specific knowledge?  How will a human being interact poorly with himself if he doesn't have this specific understanding?  How will a human being interact poorly with God if she doesn't have this specific understanding? Many of us are familiar with the verse, "...the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32), which, like all verses, is brimming with verity. And yet, what does this verse mean?
     I would assert that the meaning of this verse is more clearly: every specific truth sets a person free in a specific way that, without that truth, they would not be free.  Human beings are like diamond-shaped crystals.  They light up in a different way based on the angle light shines into them, and they light up most brilliantly when hit from every angle.  Truth and the human soul relate in the same way.  Someone may be struggling with trying to not feel scared of being killed. But what truth or combination of truths are necessary to free them from this malady and into communion with God in that area? Only a theologian with good anthropology will know the answer.
     Furthermore, someone might be talking to you about problems they are feeling with respect to not feeling loved by God.  But what is their real problem and what do they actually need to know?  What revelation are they actually lacking. Again, deducing what someone is actually talking about substantively and knowing the truths that will release the glory of God in them is something only a theologian with good anthropology will know the answer to.
     Finally, even if someone knows both the anthropological relevance of doctrine in general and is able to see how an individual needs a specific increase of the knowledge of God, there is still the challenge of understanding how human beings work enough to be able to help them receive that revelation.  We could talk for hundreds of hours, speaking of revelation after revelation, and the means by which the Holy Spirit imparts it, what understanding comes first, how the building blocks mesh together, what paths are taken or practicals employed to arrive at such revelation. Without understanding human beings very well, and laboring to do so, we will not arrive at understanding the means of imparting revelation.
     And the truth of the matter is that getting to a place where we understand these mechanisms takes time and, frankly, lots of work. I once heard Shelly Hundley talk about Jill Austin, referring to a question Jill once asked her that really affected her: "When you receive revelation, do you aim to be able to give it away to others?  When you receive revelation, do you labor so that you can impart it to others?"   What a question!
     When you receive revelation, are you simply content with the fact that it somehow just affected you?  Or do you labor in prayer and in the Word, to understand what has actually happened to you and how it is intended to affect others?  Do labor to see how you arrived at it and what it actually is?  Do you aim to understand only theology or do you aim to also comprehend the vessels of theology?  Are you living in a way that will give you relational understanding of God? Are you living in a way so that you can  impart truth to others?

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