A Theology for Our Day
by Dr. Timothy Berrey
I recently read Gerald Bray’s The Doctrine of God. Bray is an evangelical (in the Church of England), and we could not give him a full endorsement. His book, however, helpfully surveys the historical battles and issues in Theology Proper.
Bray’s book reminded me how important terminology is in theology. A small misstep in statement can plunge a man over the abyss of heresy. Even in a well-meaning man, a faulty logical paradigm can reap unintended consequences. Origen (ca. 185-254 AD), for example, correctly held that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three Persons (hypostases) of a single Being (ousia). His proposal, however, in which the Son and the Holy Spirit both had some kind of a beginning forced him to the position that only the Father was “God in Himself” (autotheos). Arian, the fourth century heretic, took Origen’s conclusion to its logical end when he concluded that the Son is similar in nature to the Father (homoiousios) but not the same (homoousios).
Bray’s book also reminded me that we see better than our predecessors because we stand on their shoulders. Century after century the church has wrestled to come to a balanced understanding of our Trinitarian God. Men, unknowingly sometimes, introduced a word or concept that the next generation seized as the key to unlocking a “knotty” theological problem. One good example might be the Carthage Church Father, Tertullian (160-220 AD). In responding to the heretic Praxeas, Tertullian argued for the Trinity but a bit mistakenly. He viewed the Son and the Holy Spirit as coming out of the Father in time (not in eternity); the Father was God in a way that the other two Persons were not. Yet as Tertullian fumbled his way toward a clearer understanding, he clarified the difference among the Trinity’s Persons as one of status, not gradus. Later generations latched onto this idea to assert that the difference in the Persons of God is one of position, not of inherent quality.
Bray’s book, lastly, reminded me of the need of a theology for today. I had a professor who once observed that in theory(!) a theologian could write a biblical theology “to end all biblical theologies.” No more would be left to be said. This professor went on to observe, though, that not so is the writing of systematic theology. The job of doing systematic theology never ceases because new theological challenges always appear with which the church must do battle. Part of systematic theology is applying the Sword of the Spirit to these incessant challenges. Who would have thought the day would ever come when professing evangelicals would deny that God is omniscient, question the reality of a fiery hell, and discard the doctrine of inerrancy?! Yet that is exactly what has happened. These challenges require pastors to be armed and ready to reprove those who oppose sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).
This leads me to conclude with a related final observation: We really need a Theology for Our Day in the Philippines! We need more Filipino pastors to write and preach theology. (I praise God for a systematic theology written by a Filipino pastor that was given to me a few months ago!) We need a fundamental, Filipino Systematic Theology, written in language understood by all, that addresses Filipino theological challenges. Let the most uneducated believer in the remotest province of the Philippines understand and embrace his Baptist theology! Perhaps a lack of a clear, relevant Theology for Today has prevented a generation of Filipino believers from really enjoying to the fullest their God. God forbid!
Study to shew thyself approved
By Pastor Albert Tiangco
When I was in my second year of high school, I bought a bookmarker that has on it the wordings of 2 Tim. 2:15--Study to shew thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. I had that bookmarker everyday with me in that school year because, in my mind, the text teaches that studying results into “approval” of God. It is my impression that Study to shew thyself approved unto God is commonly understood this way.
Contrary to popular understanding, study in 2 Tim. 2:15 does not mean “study.” The main New Testament sense of the Greek word spoudazo (spoo-dad'-zo) underlying study is to “be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious” (BDAG). The majority of the words that KJV translators used to render spoudazo proves that this (be zealous...) is the main sense of the word. spoudazo occurs 11x in the New Testament. Five times KJV translators translated it in connection with the word “diligence” (2 Tim. 4:9, 21; Titus 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:10; 3:14). Three times it was rendered as “endeavor” (Eph. 4:3; 1 Thess. 2:17; 2 Pet. 1:15), and once it was translated as “labor” (Heb. 4:11). Paul, therefore, was not merely exhorting Timothy to read books and study but commanding him to be zealous, eager, to take pains, to make every effort or to be diligent.
Paul commands Timothy to be diligent or make every effort to present (shew) himself approved unto God. While the world and, sadly, even many Christians are making effort to gain the approval of man, Christian ministers must diligently strive to gain God’s approval. But what does it mean to be approved unto God? A divinely approved minister is a person who is laboring for the Lord (a workman) with a clear conscience before self and God (that needeth not to be ashamed). It is not enough that we labor for God; Christian ministers must labor for the Lord with a clean conscience. Serving God does not always result into being approved of God.
The primary purpose, therefore, for preachers and teachers of God’s Word is not merely to prepare sermons that people would like to hear but to prepare sermons that faithfully reflect what the Word of God says; It is to this that we must apply our utmost diligence and effort. Those who minister God’s Word have a mandate from God to handle His Word accurately. We, preachers and teachers, are disapproved of God and ought to be ashamed of ourselves whenever we handle the word of God carelessly. Pastors specially are reminded of the paramount attention they need to be giving to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
We must handle the Word of God with great care or not handle it at all. Clearly, God does not approve every preaching and teaching done from and about His Word. But to those who diligently labor to teach and preach what God has revealed in His Word, God’s approval is certain.
Training Servant Leaders
Who Can be a BJMBC Student?
By Dr. Phil Kamibayashiyama (BJMBC Director)
BJMBC is not for all Christians, just like the Philippine Military Academy is not for all citizens. The church is for all Christians, but we believe that Bible school is for those who are active members of a good church, have a good Christian testimony, are recommended by their pastor for further equipping, and are teachable academically and spiritually. Without these qualifications, a believer lacks the foundation to make studying at BJMBC really profitable.
A key to our philosophy is what God has called BJMBC to do. BJMBC exists to train primarily front-line soldiers: full-time Christian servants. We are glad to include other believers—if they have a soldier’s heart. To produce godly soldiers for Jesus Christ, we give specialized training to a certain kind of believer, one who has strong spiritual interest and is a positive spiritual influence on others. Not every believer has: 1) a strong, spiritual interest to study the Bible in-depth and 2) a godly influence that sharpens others spiritually. We are intentionally selective in order to ensure that BJMBC produces its primary product: godly full-time Christian servants who make disciples for Jesus Christ.
You must be recommended for Bible college training by your pastor. You must be an active, participating member of a fundamental church. You must also be teachable. Teachableness is not sinlessness. But a Christian who is not regularly repenting of his/her sin is probably not humble or teachable. Genuine repentance results in fruit, such as humbly admitting your sins without excuses and sincerely striving to change. Without this kind of teachableness, a person will not really learn and will even weaken others spiritually. Also, his or her testimony is in much danger.
Even though BJMBC is for believers who already have a good Christian testimony, we still see God using His Word to transform students’ lives. But BJMBC is not the last hope for change in a person’s life. The church is the fundamental institution ordained by God to help all believers. However, even in the church, the time comes when it must remove a believer from its fellowship. This is when a believer’s testimony is characterized by sin through either persisting in sin or the gravity of the sin. According to 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3, we should not fellowship with a believer whose life is characterized by immorality, covetousness, idolatry, speaking abusively, drinking alcohol, stealing-deceiving, or walking disorderly especially among others. The purpose of a believer’s removal from fellowship is to preserve the testimony of the body of believers and to help the erring brother to realize the error of his/her ways, repent, and be restored.
BJMBC must also take similar action for similar offenses and for similar purposes. Our desire is for BJMBC to be a place where, even at the student level, iron is sharpening iron. If you have a well-established relationship with your church, have a good Christian testimony, could be recommended by your pastor for further equipping, and are teachable academically and spiritually, we encourage you to prayerfully consider enrolling at BJMBC! We exist to assist churches in training members of this kind for ministry that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.
Reading, learning, growing. God calls us to be changed through His Word. At BJMBC, our goal is to speak truthfully and clearly about that Word, while we prepare a future generation of students to proclaim it.