Growing Deeper with Theological Clarity

After Tuesday’s review of Grounded in the Gospel, I began thinking more about the idea of catechism.

As you look at the stats, read our blogs, and browse the shelves of our bookstores, I suspect most of us would agree that this kind of ministry is absolutely needed in our churches today if we’re to combat the biblical illiteracy that is spiritually killing us and hindering our ability to be a witness among the nations.

So where do we start? What can we do to help equip believers with a solid grasp of Christian doctrine?

A few months back, Pastor Scott Thomas, President of the Acts 29 Network, released—for free—Theological Clarity and Application: Equipping Believers in Biblical Doctrine.

This is a fantastic curriculum based on the book Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem and Elliot Grudem. Here’s how Thomas describes the workbook:

This guide is designed to equip Christians in the core beliefs of Bible doctrine in preparation for church leadership or to help new Christians to distinguish truth from error. This guide can be used to prepare elders, deacons, small group leaders, Sunday School teachers and all those who want to learn more about maturing in their Christian faith and becoming equipped to give a gentle and respectful answer to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). An instructor in a class or small group or in a one to one environment can facilitate the questions or it can be utilized as a self-study or as a tool to equip a family in Biblical doctrine.

Theological Clarity and Application seeks to preserve the contents of Grudem’s Christian Beliefs by using questions to stimulate further understanding and application. The participants in this curriculum would benefit by first reading each chapter in Christian Beliefs before answering questions in the workbook. It is also highly recommended to have a respected study Bible and a copy of Grudem’s Systematic Theology available for reference.

Each chapter of this guide corresponds to the chapters in Christian Beliefs. At the end of each section, a prayer text and Scripture memory is included. . . . This material is not something that should be rushed through to complete. It is like a refrigerated locker full of meat that must be eaten slowly and systematically one meal at a time, allowing ample time to chew and digest the information and ideally to savor with others. One can complete the study in 20 weeks by covering one chapter a week or complete it in 40 weeks (approximately one school year) by covering one chapter every two weeks. The latter allows for a deeper reading of the accompanying Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

I’ve been reading through the workbook and am thoroughly impressed by the amount of work Pastor Thomas has put into this project. It’s one that I’d highly encourage any of  you looking for a place to dig deeper into your faith to pick up a copy of Christian Beliefs and  download a copy of Theological Clarity and Application (you can also purchase a print copy from Lulu).

Question: What resources have you found helpful in growing deeper in your faith?

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  • http://cleverphrasehere.blogspot.com Amber

    A question purely out of curiosity – what has led you (or others) to believe that biblical illiteracy is such a widespread problem? What has led you to believe that it’s any worse now compared to other times?

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Great questions. I’ll be as concise as I can :)

      One influential factor is statistical data. Pew Research has some really interesting data (U.S.) on the beliefs of professing evangelical Christians.

      For example, according to Pew’s research, 57% of evangelicals believe that there is more than one way to eternal life, 53% believe there is no single objective meaning to any text in Scripture.

      Barna’s also got some interesting insights based on their last round of polls.

      A second factor is when you look at the books being published. There is some really sketchy material being put out there and people are eating it up. Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now” and Brian McLaren’s books are great examples.

      A third factor is the preaching in our churches. I’m not sure what it’s like at your church, but the one we were a part of before Harvest (at least while we were there) rarely ever opened the Bible and taught from it. The most you’d get is verses (not always in context) below the points on the handout.

      But at the end of the day, these factors are really only symptoms of the problem. Put them all together and I would suggest that the real issue is a lack of confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.

      I’ve heard many pastors talk about how they desire to “make the Bible relevant for today.” Every time I hear it, I’m a bit uncertain how to take it. It can be that they mean to say that they want to show the relevance of the Scriptures to our lives; if so, they’ve just said it very poorly.

      As for whether or not it’s any worse than in the past, I’m not 100% certain it’s any worse, but it’s certainly more visible thanks to the internet.

      I do know from my reading that there tends to be an ongoing cycle starting with confident fidelity to the truth which moves to the assumption of the truth which leads to compromise and finally to outright denial.

      You see it looking back at the events leading up to the Reformation, in the Puritan movement, the “Fundamentalist” debates of the 30s-50s in which men like J.I. Packer played a critical role, and again in the so-called “New Calvinist” movement.

      I’m not sure if that totally answers the question, but it’s a start at least :)

  • http://cleverphrasehere.blogspot.com Amber

    Thanks. I’ll look into those studies.

    I do think it’s true that relativism has now crept its way into many Christians’ thinking without us fully realizing it. Though I don’t know if people are reading the Bible less, I do agree that our approach to the Bible is taking a turn for the worse.

    On a tangent, I do think that topical preaching gets a bad name. Surely it can be and sometimes is done poorly. But I’ve also attended churches in which the messages were topical but completely based and buttressed on Scripture (new word, can I use it like that?). Nonetheless, Mike and I attend an expository church which would drive most people crazy with its slow and methodical approach to Scripture. We’ve been in 1 Corinthians since April and are just now in chapter 14. But we love it.

    • http://www.bloggingtheologically.com Aaron Armstrong

      Re: the tangent – agreed, topical definitely gets a raw deal a lot of the time. Some guys who do it are excellent at it; I’m not one of them. I find it way too easy to start peppering a message with my own ideas, or avoid certain subjects altogether if I don’t go through a full passage.

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