Dear Church Family,
“Truth is truth, no matter where you find it,” or so they say. I want to test that theory by examining the words of a song by the alternative rock band, Weezer. That’s right, I said Weezer. The song is called “Undone – the Sweater Song” and here’s the chorus:
If you want to destroy my sweater
Pull this thread as I walk away (as I walk away)
Watch me unravel I'll soon be naked
Lying on the floor, lying on the floor
I've come undone
I know, it may seem odd, but hear me out. Without trying to examine the original meaning, the various themes of the song, or what have you, I simply want to make this observation: theology and doctrine (what the Bible teaches) is like a sweater. Remove one doctrine (pull one thread) and your theology will come undone (you’ll soon be naked). OK, the illustration eventually breaks down. Altering one doctrine may not undo all others, but you certainly will change the sweater.
Here’s why I’ve been thinking about this. Last Sunday, in our adult Sunday school class, we learned about the various forms of church government. We discussed the three major forms: episcopal, congregational, and presbyterian. This coming Sunday in our adult Sunday school class, we will be examining (very briefly) the doctrine of election and predestination. Then, on the next Sunday, we will examine (once again, very briefly) the doctrine of baptism – particularly, infant baptism.
I’m not sure that we always recognize this, but these doctrines (along with many others) are all interconnected. They make up the beautiful tapestry (or sweater, if you will) of the system of doctrine which is taught in the Scriptures. Pull one thread of doctrine and it affects all of the others. Or, to look at it from a more positive angle: the various doctrines of the Christian faith which we learn from the Bible are intertwined and mutually support one another. This should come as no surprise to us when we realize that it the Holy Spirit, Himself, speaking in the Scriptures (WCF 1:10).
In his book The Church of God as an Essential Element of the Gospel, Stuart Robinson makes this very clear. Robinson was a pastor and theologian who taught at the Presbyterian Seminary in Danville, KY from 1856-1858. In this book, he defends the claim of the title by showing how the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is rooted in the eternal decrees of God and His plan to redeem for Himself a people: “…the Church is an indispensable means of accomplishing the great purpose of his love to his chosen people, as an institute for the calling, training, and edifying of the elect” (p 37). [John Muether has a helpful review of Robinson’s book here: http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=247.]
Just two quotes from the first chapter help us to see what is the major thrust of Robinson’s book. First, Robinson speaks to the idea that the doctrine of predestination provides the essential underpinnings of all theology: “…the doctrine of the Decree and Predestination of God is not so much a doctrine of Calvinism – one distinct truth in a system of truth – as a mode of conceiving and setting forth all the doctrines which make up revealed theology” (p 34). With this many Christians may disagree; however, it is his next claim with which even many self-described Calvinists may disagree.
Not only does Robinson stress the foundational nature of the doctrine of election for all of theology, he goes further. He posits that our understanding of the church (ecclesiology) is essential for maintaining orthodoxy in all of theology: “…a Calvinistic theology cannot long retain its integrity and purity save in connection with a Calvinistic ecclesiology…” (p 35).
If some of these theological terms are new to you, here’s the bottom line: what we believe about how and why God saves people, the nature of the church, the truth of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, the keeping of God’s Law – indeed all of theology – are all interrelated. Theology matters. And good theology is either helped or hindered by the way in which it is taught and embraced in the church.
Good theology is the sweater that we wear in our pilgrimage to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (WSC 1)! I’ll see you in Sunday school as we examine more of the threads of the sweater.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch