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Do Full-Gospel Ministers Need Theology? by Larry Taylor

Thus any steps toward a full-gospel theology must be firmly planted upon this triune foundation of Christian experience, faith, and God’s willingness to act in self-disclosure. Orthodoxy has referred to this latter as revelation, Jesus Christ being the supreme radiance of God’s self-disclosure (Heb. 1:1-3). He is the Logos, the divine word sent to the lost world (Jn. 1:1-3), who incarnates the message of agape, that God’s love has come into the world (Jn. 3:16). Christ is, therefore, at the center of Christian experience (Phil. 1:21), the object of sincere faith (Gal. 2:20), and the witness par excellence to God’s love and His will for man (2 Cor. 5:19). No other type of theology is adequate.

There are, indeed, several types of theology we do not need. For one, we must avoid theologies which find their origin and locus in man. Such theologies emerged with the work of Fredrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who defined the essence of religion as “the immediate feeling of the infinite and Eternal.”7 Schleiermacher’s emphasis on subjective “religious feeling,” coupled with an overconfidence in the analytical interpretation of religious experience, effectively replaced the authority of Scripture with that of man. Since his time, many imaginative but destructive theologies have arisen, all of them the logical result of placing man at the center as the epistemological (knowing) base for the interpretation of religious experience, rather than revelation.

We ought to fear the power of our own biases to take the place of a real theology.

The authentic gospel, however, is not anthropocentric but theocentric. It discredits any fantasy that man can ascend to God of himself. Evangelical theology understands that it is God who condescended to man in Christ (Phil. 2:6-7; cf. Jn. 4:9-10). Any theology which proposes man’s inherent ability to discover God ignores the obvious reality of sin which, in the evangelical view, obscures all spiritual insight.

A second type of theology we do not need consists of theologies which become ends in themselves. The “hinder side” of loving the truth is theological infatuation–the obsession to be omniscient, to know everything there is to know about God. When theology itself has replaced God as our greatest concern, we have violated the first commandment, erecting “another God” (Ex. 20:3). Even before the time of Plato and the Greek philosophers, men began to venerate knowledge for knowledge’s sake; it became a “thing in itself” (das Ding an sich, Kant), rather than a means of relating to a Person. The essence of Christianity consists not in propositions only but in relationship with God. Any attempt to reduce God to propositions must yield before God “manifest in the flesh,” the Christ who can be seen, heard, and handled (1 Jn. 1:1-3).

If our theology is intended to be truly a ‘full’ gospel, we must not hesitate to explore the full range of Christian theology. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit must not be the only doctrine that concerns us. Instead of ‘borrowing’ the rest of our theology from non-charismatic evangelicals or others, we can work out answers of our own to the problems posed to theology, taking into account the thorough and relevant work done by spokesmen for other traditions but allowing the distinctive stance of our full-gospel heritage to shape the final result.

Thirdly, we do not need theologies which become weapons against the church. The history of Christendom is filled with examples of theologies erected as catapults and siege batteries for internal religious wars–conflicts in which Satan has been the principle victor. Like the Corinthians, given to a party spirit (1 Cor. 1:11-12), we have not lost our propensity for dogmatism. The word “heresy” (Greek hairesis) denotes the act of lifting out a doctrine and calling it one’s own, to the exclusion of other ideas. Although it is a worthy trait to stand by one’s convictions, it is also possible to allow “destructive opinions” (2 Pet. 2:1) to ferment sectarianism. Someone has said that many churches know more about what they do not believe than what they do believe. We ought to fear the power of our own biases to take the place of a real theology.

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Category: Fall 1998, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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