Sourdough Experiments, Synthesising and Systemising Scripture
Experimenting with sourdough these last few days has been great for thinking through the concepts of theology, biblical theology, and dogmatics (when i was not pulling out splinters from dough-encrusted digits, courtesy of the ultra-cheap banneton).
sourdough bagels: can’t say i got the hang of the concept of a hole. After all, how can one grasp nothingness? Anyway, like baguettes, bagels are best eaten as fresh as possible. Gave the dough boys a hot water bath for a more chewy texture. Lovely with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and seaweed caviar.
sourdough rye: not too bad. On the second day, the rye started to smell distinctly like miso – which might be where Gontran Cherrier got the idea for rye and red miso bread? On the rye-front, I’d really like to try making some rugbrød next – dream breadbase for those lovely Danish open sandwiches.
Almost a year ago, i had a very long almost-argument with The Tutor, in a dark empty church building, about the biblical basis for systematic theology. In recent discussions about setting up ministry training schemes in various parts of the United Kingdom and abroad, this issue has come to the fore again.
The Tutor was opposed to systematic theology, for, as far as I could tell, the same reasons as Julius Kaftan – that systemisation results on the faithfulness of the content being sacrificed to form; truths might be stretched or dropped and human speculation rife so as to construct some sort of forced (and false) order. Some doctrine lectures at The School have, unfortunately, been a good demonstration of why he was right to fear the harm systemisation could bring. But these very real dangers should not prohibit all attempts at bringing order to the knowledge about God as revealed in Scripture.
My current (tentative and possibly erroneous) thinking on the matter (with much help from Herman Bavinck):
- all humans synthesise and systemise information in order to make sense of the world, make decisions about how to act etc;
- the goal of consciously synthesising and systemising information about God would be:
- to know God – our Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, Father;
- in so knowing God, to be able to think God’s thoughts after him, understand their unity;
- accordingly, conduct ourselves rightly before him, increasing in faith in him, thereby glorifying him;
- the basis of this would not be the Kantian and Schleiermacherean idea that personal conviction of faith is largely feeling, grounded in moral motives or subjective mental states, but rather in the confidence that it is based on real truth spoken by God authoritatively through his word, the Bible;
- a dogma would be true not because the institutional church has recognised it as such but solely because God has said so in Scripture;
- because we are merely human and fallen humans at that, God cannot be known by us apart from his revelation to us in Scripture;
- the truth of the word of God stands independently of our will and acceptance – that is to say that his word has objective truth that persists apart from our faith, just as the world of colours and sounds would exist independently of the blind and the deaf;
- therefore, any human attempt to synthesise and systemise outside of Scripture, and any claim to bring forth new truth that is not biblical, would necessarily be false;
- the content of God’s revelation is knowledge about himself, with the goal that we grow in our faith in him (that is, that God is finally the object of faith based on knowledge, not the object of knowledge);
- therefore, revelation is of such a nature that it can only be accepted and understood and then systemised by someone with a (saving) faith in God;
- furthermore, this dogmatician/theologian can never arrive at a further knowledge of God or goal that is outside the realm of faith in God for the glory of God.