theology

After several weeks of hiatus, I’m back to posting a regular word of the week theology post. Our most recent theme addressed the doctrine of revelation. In these posts we explored terms related to the Word of God and how we can trust it.

The next theme we are going to work through is theology proper, or the doctrine of God. In the spring, I posted on theology as something more than an academic discipline. In the next number of posts, I’m going to work through terms related specifically to the doctrine of God.

Remember, theology is the study of God and God’s relation to the world. The doctrine of revelation (our most recent theme) studies how God makes himself known to us through general and special revelation. The doctrine of Christ (which we started with in January) studies how God revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In theology proper, we are going to reflect on the character, attributes, and glory of God. This will be a daunting task.

No book, article, sermon, or blogpost can exhaust the wonders, glories, and majesty of God. One of the reasons for the hiatus over the last few weeks is my personal hesitancy in how to explore the doctrine of God adequately and accurately in a blogpost format.

As a result, the subsequent posts regarding God, his character, his person, and his attributes will be limited. I will attempt to choose terms that I can explain clearly and accurately in the limits of a blogpost. I will also aim to reflect what I believe to be one of the primary truths of Scripture–God is knowable.

Theological terms and doctrinal studies can become academic or dry. As a bit of a theology nerd, I have been known to bore a congregation (or my family) by diving too far down into theological minutia. But this is not what theology is supposed to be. Theology is supposed to be about God making himself known and accessible to us.

Jesus prayed in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The primary purpose of studying the doctrine of God is to know God through Jesus Christ. My hope is that the posts that follow in the weeks to come will help us to know God better.

In his classic book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer observed:

We must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word, and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 37.

So let us approach these posts in the following ways:

  • We approach the study of God with humility recognizing the greatness, majesty, and grace of God.
  • We approach the study of God with curiosity recognizing that we will never exhaust the truth and truths about God in our finite understanding.
  • We approach the study of God with fear (awe and reverential respect) recognizing that God in his holiness is to be feared.
  • We approach the study of God with faith recognizing that God revealed himself to us through his creation and his Word reflecting God’s desire to make himself known to us.
  • We approach the study of God with gratitude recognizing the privilege of knowing God and being known by God.
  • We approach the study of God with perseverance recognizing that we will never exhaust the knowledge of God in our finitude.
  • We approach the study of God with submission recognizing that what God reveals about himself to us should result in repentance, change, and obedience in our relationship to him.

In next week’s post, we will begin with several of the primary names God uses in Scripture when he reveals himself to us.

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

It’s kind of hard for me to believe, but my Fruitland experience goes back 22 years. It was the summer of 1999, and I was 19. Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute (has since been renamed Fruitland Baptist Bible College) was an excellent beginning choice for my higher education. My connection with Fruitland began even before my birth. My uncle James Hefner, also a Southern Baptist pastor, went to Fruitland in the 1960s. When my brother Robert and I, announced our call to vocational ministry, we chose to attend Fruitland because of our family connections, appreciation for faculty such as Dr. Kenneth Ridings and Randy Kilby, and because of its tuition affordability. That decision turned out to be life changing. 

One of greatest benefits of FBBC is the practical theology of its educational curriculum. Most of the faculty are part-time and most were or have been in full-time Christian ministry. Professors who are also pastors help the courses to be both academically sound and ministerially applicable. Students learn first-hand about pastoral ministry. 

My two years at Fruitland introduced me to mentors and professors whose influence continues in my life. As a student, the camaraderie and theological development alongside other students shaped my perspectives and practices. As for academics, the lessons of studying, reading, researching, and writing I learned at Fruitland formed the foundation for my academic endeavors all the way to my Ph.D. studies. 

Fruitland became life changing for me in more ways than academics. Fruitland is nestled in Hendersonville, NC, and while a student, I began an internship at Mud Creek Baptist Church where several members of the pastoral staff taught at Fruitland. The opportunity to learn academically while serving ministerially in part-time and then full-time ministry formed my ministry philosophy. Because of my connection to Fruitland as a student and through fellow pastors, I had the opportunity to substitute in a variety of classes and grew to love Fruitland not just for the education it provided, but for the opportunity to share what I had learned with others. 

Currently, I serve as a professor at Fruitland (Western Civilization, online and Theology, on campus). Having also taught Apologetics, I’ve grown to deeply appreciate the impact Fruitland has on students and NC Baptists. It is an honor to look aspiring minsters in the eye and participate in shaping their academic development and ministerial philosophy. 

As a student I didn’t fully appreciated the connection between Fruitland and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, but now I do. Because Fruitland is an entity of the BSCNC, tuition costs have remained affordable. This was one of the primary reasons I attended Fruitland and is a factor for many current students. As an NC Baptist, I want to take this opportunity to thank my fellow NC Baptists and convention leadership for their continued investment in FBBC. I don’t know where I would be without the academic foundation it provided and the opportunities it offered.

NC Baptists, when you give, you support a school that trains ministers to have a high view of biblical authority.  When you give, you provide for the education and development of pastors who will do kingdom work for decades to come.  When you give, students learn how to communicate the unchanging gospel to an ever-changing culture. When you give, you help students develop their ministry philosophy that will impact eternity. 

For me, Fruitland is more than an entity of NC Baptists. Fruitland Baptist Bible College is the ministry lifeblood for Baptists across North and South Carolina. 

To the faculty at Fruitland, thank you for investing in the lives of students who will go on to be pastors, missionaries, and denominational leaders. 

To the leadership at the BSCNC, thank you for your continued support for FBBC to remain an academic and ministerial foundation for NC Baptists. 

To NC Baptists, thank you for giving. Your giving influences kingdom work right here in our state and throughout the world. 

This article was originally posted here for the Biblical Recorder, the Baptist paper for North Carolina. Find more information here about how to subscribe to the Biblical Recorder and get more stories like this one each month.

Photo by Trey Musk on Unsplash