To think biblically and theologically

“It does what it says on the tin”. We have become used to checking the labels and expecting the text on the outside to match what we find on the inside. Rutherford House: helping people to think biblically and theologically. The Trustees hope and pray that we will be found to do what we say on the tin! We very much value your prayers and support for us and for the work of Rutherford House as we take on this renewed vision to help people to think biblically and theologically.

This vision is inspired by the words of the apostle Paul to the church in Rome,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

The mission of God in his creation will be achieved when the people of God are not conformed to the world. But it is not enough simply to not conform, any number of groups and individuals are non-conformists. The people of God are to not conform by being transformed. This transformation centres on the mind, on our thinking. It is with our minds we are to test and ‘discern what is the will of God’. The vision behind Rutherford House is that the transformation of our mind is a transformation into biblical and theological thinking.

The Bible is the gracious self-revelation of God. Yes, human words written down by human authors, but at the same time God’s words given by him that he might make himself known. This revelation of God is transforming.  If we once glimpse the beauty and glory of this self-revelation of God our lives will never be the same again. Like the repeated rubbing of a stone across a piece of metal until it become magnetised, so the repeated immersion of our mind, our thoughts, in Scripture will attune us, magnetise us to the ways of our God. In a world which despises the discipline of repeated activity, a world which rejects the nature and purpose of Scripture, Rutherford House and this series of Reflections aims to help us transform our thinking until it is genuinely biblical.

Theology is an intentional, purposeful reflection upon God. All people have a theology, some people intentionally reflect upon their theology and so have a better, more fully rounded theology than those who drift along without ever thinking theologically. It is too easy for us to fall into ways of living and thinking which never engage with any theological insight we may have. We can find ourselves reflecting upon reports from Syria or the Ukraine without ever asking ourselves, ‘How should I think theologically about this?’ We all need some help in learning, or re-learning, how to think theologically.

Consider for a moment Psalms 105 and 106. In both psalms elements of the story of God at work in and with the people of Israel is retold. It is this biblical narrative which forms, shapes, the consciousness of the psalmist. Ps 105 reflects upon this story from God’s perspective, and recounting the faithfulness of God in his covenant promises to his people, in more than half the verses God is the subject. This is history reflected upon not politically, although it has political implications and consequences, not economically, not socially but theologically. The result of this theological reflection upon God’s work in Israel’s history is;

44 And he gave them the lands of the nations,

and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,

45 that they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Praise the LORD!

(Psa. 105:44-45)

Ps. 106 reflects upon the same biblical history, the same biblical narrative shaping and directing the reflections of the psalmist. But the direction of this psalmist’s theological reflection is markedly different from that of Ps. 105;

4 Remember me, O LORD, when you show favour to your people;

help me when you save them,

6 Both we and our fathers have sinned;

we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.

(Psa. 106:4-6)

Not now reflection upon God’s covenant faithfulness, here reflection upon human covenant disloyalty, human failure to live within the covenant God graciously made with his people. Not that the faithfulness of God is absent from Ps. 106;

44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,

when he heard their cry.

45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,

and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

46 He caused them to be pitied

by all those who held them captive.

47 Save us, O LORD our God,

and gather us from among the nations,

that we may give thanks to your holy name

and glory in your praise.

(Psa. 106:44-47)

Do we not need such biblical and theological thinking in our days? Should we not stir one another up to such sustained biblical reflection and theological endeavour? And if we follow the example of the Psalmist our biblical and theological thinking cannot become abstract and remote. The fruit of biblical and theological thinking will be obedience to God’s law (Ps. 105.45) and dependence and repentance (Ps. 106.4, 6).

Pray for us at Rutherford House as we seek to answer the call to help people to think biblically and theologically. Pray for one another that we might all grow in such biblical and theological thinking.