As I have studied various approaches to theology, I seem to find one thing that is common: With perhaps no exceptions, every proposed topic has proponents and detractors. This has been true throughout the Old Testament times, during the time of Christ on this earth, and
after He ascended. From the day Jesus died, His followers began to discuss among themselves, "What just happened, and what does it all mean?" So the proposals and arguments began.
Take the concept of baptism. What does it mean? What does it signify? Does it carry any power in and of itself? Who can administer it? How should it be done? What happens to the person who is baptized? Do the words used at the baptism have any meaningful significance? The various answers to questions such as these began to produce different groups of believers, with each group claiming to have the "inside track" to the truth on this topic.
When the Scriptures speak of Israel, or the Suffering Servant, to whom do they refer? Just what promises did God make to Israel? Have they been, or will they be fulfilled, and if so, how? Scripture is filled with passages that use various types of figurative language or symbols. What do these mean to those who wrote them, to those who heard them spoken? To those who later read them in earlier times? To us who read them today? Does it really matter to us today what these very old writings meant to those who originally wrote, heard, or received them? Should these writings, or parts of them, be understood literally, or symbolically? And how does one decide?
Did God work in certain ways at some times and in other ways at other times? (I'm alluding to ideas such as dispensational theology at this point.) And what about these Scriptures:
Exodus 32:14 (NASB) So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
1 Samuel 15:29 (NASB) "Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind."
Psalm 55:19 (NASB) God will hear and answer them— Even the one who sits enthroned from of old— Selah. With whom there is no change, And who do not fear God.
Psalm 10:4 (NASB) The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, "You re a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek."
Jeremiah 4:28 (NASB) "For this the earth shall mourn And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not
change My mind, nor will I turn from it."
Jeremiah 26:13 (NASB) Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you.
Jeremiah 26:19 (NASB) "Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the
LORD, and the LORD changed His mind about the misfortune which He had pronounced against them? But we are committing a great evil against ourselves."
Amos 7:3 (NASB) The LORD changed His mind about this. "It shall not be," said the LORD.
Malachi 3:6 (NASB) For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
Is it possible for the Lord, who knows everything, including the future, to change His mind?
Does He already have a plan for each of our lives, or do we have a part to play regarding our final destination?
Christ wrote nothing, but those who knew Him personally, and others who knew His closest followers personally began to produce written versions of Christ's teachings. How accurate are these as to what Christ actually did and said? Is it true that what those individuals who were the closest to Christ in time have the most accurate understanding of His teachings? If people, mostly men, in the first few centuries after Christ began to interpret and apply Jesus' teachings and did not agree on some topics, how does one decide which teachings are correct?
Consider the subject of Spiritual Gifts. Jesus never spoke about this. The only thing He may have said was about the Gift (The Holy Spirit).
John 4:10 (NASB) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
John 16:13 (NASB) "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."
The Apostle Paul spoke on the subject of gifts at some length, but do you realize that from the very beginning, the church may have completely misunderstood or misused what Paul was teaching? In no way was Paul trying to teach that there are only certain specific Gifts
of the Spirit. What he was saying was that no gift of the Spirit should be touted more than another to demonstrate someone's superiority over someone else. While Paul suggested that certain gifts may be more desirable for promoting the faith and unity, none is more important than another, in God's plan.
One of the earliest issues what that of how to interpret Scripture - literally, allegorically, or metaphorically. Clearly, certain passages would appear to need a literal interpretation, and others just as clearly have symbolic meanings. However, very early on, those who prefer literal interpretation pushed their approach too far, in the view of some theologians, and those who preferred allegorical interpretation also pushed their approach too far, in the view of others. Various "camps" arose around each group which claimed to have the "inside track" on the truth of the matter.
Years ago, when individual theologians took intransigent positions that conflicted with the group who claimed to hold the majority opinion, they were labeled "heretics," and if the group had the power, they put to death some persons so labelled. Is that the proper way to get to the truth of a matter - silence, or do away with those who hold a different opinion? What does that say about those who claim to have the majority opinion? And what does it say about that opinion itself. If something is actually "true," won't that eventually come to be common knowledge if everyone is allowed to search for it?
The thing I have come to understand is this - any attempt by mankind to understand God completely will be futile. I view all theological models as our attempts to put God in a box where we can control Him or others. If my box is better than yours, then I am better than you, and that's where I want to end up. Of course, I am the one who gets to say who has the better box, so you don't really count, you see. Are you with me at this point? If so, then you can see that we are now reasoning circularly, and we are at the center of that circle. It makes perfect sense to us, and it doesn't matter what others may say. Folly has a way of justifying itself.
What does God have to say about all this? "My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts, [higher] than your thoughts. [Isaiah
So each of us has only a limited understanding of God (theology), and when it comes to a final decision as to what is correct and true, God alone is the one who knows, and His opinion is the only one that really counts. So keep working on your theology, but never assume that your box is finished.