I just learn what the Holy Spirit teaches me

I read about many lone ranger Christians who say it’s just them and the Holy Spirit. They don’t need denominations, ‘isms’ or creeds. They just learn what the Holy Spirit teaches them. See what Michael Horton says about that.

Many of these people see Calvinism as being arrogant. And the term “our theology” would seem to fit that supposition. But read on to find out what is meant by that.

I have written this book on the heels of another theology book entitled The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way.1 As I explained in the introduction to that book, the old Reformed theologians would sometimes refer to their summaries of the faith as “our theology.” They referred to it this way for two reasons. First, to indicate that what they were writing was distinct from God’s own self-understanding. This is why they would sometimes use the term ectypal when talking about their theology. Though it sounds somewhat technical, an ectype is simply a copy, with the archetype as the original. Talking about theology as “ectypal,” then, is a humble admission that only God’s own self-knowledge is original (archetypal). All that we say about God is a copy, subject to error. We will never know anything exactly as God knows it. Instead, we know things as he has revealed them to us, accommodating his knowledge to our feeble capacity to understand.

Second, the older theologians referred to their summary of faith as “our theology” to make it clear that it was not just “my theology” — their own individualistic understanding of God. To study theology involves entering into a long, ongoing conversation, one that we did not begin. Others have been talking about God long before you or I entered this discussion. We do not read the Bible somewhere off by ourselves in a corner; we read it as a community of faith, together with the whole church in all times and places.

Because our theological understanding is necessarily limited and finite, subject to our sinful biases, affections, and errors, I follow a venerable Christian tradition by referring to this volume as a “pilgrim theology” for those on the way — Christians who humbly seek to understand God but who are aware of their own biases and sinful tendencies to distort the truth. Older theologians used this term to distinguish our theological understanding from that of the glorified saints. A day will yet come when we are glorified and the effects of sin fully conquered, and our understanding of God will be fuller, more complete. Even in this condition, however, we will still be finite and our theology will remain ectypal — creaturely. Yet it will no longer be a theology for pilgrims. It will no longer be subject to sinful error. Then, we shall know, even as we are fully known.

Michael Horton

For those who say, “The Bible is my creed”, listen to what Carl Trueman has to say about all of this.

Creeds demonstrate doctrinal competence.

–Carl Trueman

4 Responses to “I just learn what the Holy Spirit teaches me”

  1. 1 T.C. Robinson

    I just reviewed Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative. Good stuff.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    I will look for it, thanks.

  3. 3 T.C. Robinson
  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Very nice review.

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