The standard modern/Protestant method of doing theology has been to collect statements about God from the Bible and file them by category, this constituting a “systematic” theology. We then employ this chart of “divine attributes” as the rubric for our study of Jesus. I took systematics courses in seminary that worked this way. God is omniscient as implied by out-of-context verse X, and thus Jesus is also omniscient according to out-of-context verse Y. The goal in all of this is to forensically “prove” Jesus’ divinity, which helps us argue for the veracity and superiority of our faith.
There are many problems with this method, and in fact one of the major turning points in my own spiritual journey saw its unmaking. First, the systematic method ignores the Bible’s diversity of thought and voice, flattening a multiplicity of witnesses and claims about God into a simple catalog or encyclopedia of foregone theological propositions. If you want to know what God is like, turn to any page and start reading. Systematics then takes its specious package of “God facts” and stuffs them into an empty vessel called “Jesus,” likewise obscuring the rich and colorful tapestry of Jesus witnesses in the Bible and the organic contextual environments of the gospels. The result is a stale, conflicted, and obtuse notion of “God,” constructed out of detached biblical elements, and an even more muted and useless Jesus, a bland and generic divine mascot who simply underwrites everything we already think about God. Continue reading