Yesterday, I proposed some new theological categories that focus on the activity of God in history, rather than on abstract ideas about God. Hopefully, by arranging theology this way, the study of theology leads us to action, rather than to more abstraction as commonly happens with current theological studies. Studying theology this way will hopefully lead us to both know the truth and live it.
Below are seven categories (which have been revised from time to time since the original publication of this article), with a little more explanation. I’ve already made one change, from “Judging” to “Justice.” I did not like “judging” but I’m not fond of “justice” either for several reasons, but mostly because it is more of a noun than a verb, and I want the categories to be verbs. Any ideas? (Thanks Tim Nichols, for the suggestion of “Naming”!)
Also, following each explanation in parentheses is where discussion about some of the ideas from traditional Systematic Theological (ST) categories might be found.
It is also important to note that all seven of the following categories can be found in Genesis 1, the opening chapter of the Bible. These categories are all performed by God, and then (to one degree or another) passed on to Adam and Eve. This is what it means to be created in the image of God. We do what God does on this earth.
The Bible begins and ends with the creative work of God, and everything in history and in Scripture reveals that God creates and re-creates. He not only does this with the universe, but with mankind, the nation of Israel, and the church. Humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation, and is called to be co-laborers with God in creation.
(ST: Theology Proper, Israelology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology)
Other terms for this include Relating, Loving, Multiplying, Providing, and Blessing.
God is nothing if not relational. The relational aspect of God is central to thinking about God and interacting with Him. God’s relational interaction include the Trinity, the angels, and humanity. The way God interacts in these relationships reveals much about God, and helps guide us in our own relationships.
Loving is also a huge topic, and would necessarily be divided into several subcategories, such as grace, mercy, and forgiveness. The love of God is vital for understanding why and how God acts. Themes about the love of God run parallel to the previous topic, the justice of God. Love, of course, should be a primary Christian action.
(ST: Theology Proper, Trinitarianism, Christology, Pneumatology, Anthropology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, Angelology)
Communication is central to all of God’s relationships. With us, He communicates through nature, our conscience, Scripture, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and one another. Communication in its many forms and varieties is also central to being human.
(ST: Bibliology, Anthropology, Christology, Ecclesiology)
This is seeing things as they really are and calling things by their right names. It is being able to accurately discern good from evil is something that only God can do. God, being holy, is also just, and must deal with all that is not holy. Humans participate in this, but due to our rebellion against God, came under His judgment, and unable to make right judgments on our own, and so our role in God’s justice is limited. The Scriptures are full of themes of God’s justice, both in areas of condemning the wicked and defending the oppressed.
(ST: Hamartiology, Eschatology)
In the beginning, God separates light from darkness, waters above from the waters below, the various plants and animals after their “kind,” man and woman, etc. But there are good types of separation and bad types as well. After sin enters the scene, humanity is separated from God, and man and woman become separated from each other.
The focus in the rest of Scripture is learning what to separate and what to join together. Sadly, religion often separates things wrongly, teaching us to join with what we should not (greed, envy, rivalry) and separate from what we must join together (other people, culture, creation, life).
(ST: Soteriology, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology)
Redemption is the pinnacle of theological studies. It is both the goal and the means for everything else. Because of God’s love in all of His relationships, He seeks to communicate with us what is happening in our world as a result of His justice and love, and what He is doing to restore the perfect relationship that He desires. Those who have been restored are to actively participate with God in bringing the rest of God’s creation to redemption.
(ST: Soteriology, Christology, Israelology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology)
We can also speak of living and serving.
Day 7 of creation is about God’s rule over the world He created. He also gave the sun, moon, and stars to rule over the heavens, and gave Adam and Eve the responsibility to rule and have dominion over the earth. To properly carry out our God-given function on this earth, we must learn how to properly live in this earth, with each other and with the plants and animals, and rule them as God rules us.
* * * * *
What do you think of these six categories? Do they fairly represent the major activities of God in Scripture and in history, and also indicate the major ways that we are also to be involved in the world? Can you think of a different term for “justice” that is a verb?
David N. says
Jeremy Myers says
I replaced it with justice. I’m not sure this was a good move, but judging has such negative connotations. What do you think?
Tammy Carter says
Correcting? I don’t know…just what came to mind when reading the justice category. I like this Jeremy. Do you think using these six categories, one could read/look at a certain scripture almost like a Lectio Devina study and see what God is saying in each category to them/us through that particular scripture?
Jeremy Myers says
Thinking about theology this way is really starting to excite me, but I hope I am not biting off more than I can chew.
I don’t know how it will evolve, so am not sure if it could be used as a Lectio Devina study or not. It’s an interesting idea, though.
I like it,easier to understand than the other post.Question to you…Love ,of course ,should be a primary christian action.I think that’s being very exclusive,and excluding those who are not Christians,shouldn’t it be a primary human action?P.s I’m really not into what I term as christianese(too blessed to be stressed,god helps those who help themselves,what would Jesus do?etc etc)
Jeremy Myers says
Yes, I don’t mean that love is primarily Christian, but that Christians should be primarily loving. In other words, yes, anybody and everybody can and should love others. Christians, of course, teach that God is love, and that Jesus is – among other things – the manifestation of God’s love. Therefore, love should be a key element to being a Christian. Sadly, it far too often is not…
Tim Nichols says
I realize I’m late to the party here, but I’ve just now had time to catch up some. I love this stuff! Very excited to see how your thought develops.
Have you considered “Naming” rather than “Judging/Justice”? I think it would subsume the justice aspects, and cover some other things as well. It also has the advantage of not being dependent on sin — there was Naming before sin, and there will be Naming when sin is banished from the New Earth. In between, part of our responsibility to reflect the divine image is to name sin as what it is.
You could subsume that under communication, but communication is more than just giving things their right names. I’d say Naming is the precondition of effective Communication.
Jeremy Myers says
That is exactly what I was looking for! It is beautiful, scriptural, and best of all, it is a primary prophetic task.
Tim, you are a theological genius! At least…until we disagree on something… 😉
The problem with this project is that I think I started it too soon. I feel I am several years away from even beginning to tackle it.
Tim Nichols says
You’re young, brother; no reason to feel bad about taking your time.
This is the kind of project that profits from a lot of “back burner” time anyhow. Keep the theological stock pot on the back of the stove, and let ‘er simmer. Every once in a while, throw in a ham bone or some vegetable trimmings…
Jeremy Myers says
What about “Restoring”?
Peet James says
For a verby form of justice or judgment, how about adjudication or exculpation. And no I am not a lawyer, but an engineer. I just thought of guilt and then reverse dictionary’d (https://reversedictionary.org/) “the act of determining guilt”.
An adjudication is a legal ruling or judgment.
An exculpation is a legal determination of a clearance from a charge of guilt or fault.