It’s been said that everyone is a theologian. But can every Christian be a good theologian? The biblical answer is a resounding yes.
Building a sound theology from Scripture is not only possible—it is every Christian’s calling and privilege, because the God whom we would know has first spoken of Himself to us. In addition to revealing Himself through creation (Ps. 19:1–6; Rom. 1:20), God spoke “at many times and in many ways . . . by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1–2). This self-disclosure by God is recorded for us in Holy Scripture. With Bible in hand, then, we know that God’s words through Isaiah apply today: “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret” (Isa. 48:16). As the creator of language and the very first speaker (Gen. 1:3), God is quintessentially able to make Himself known to those He has made in His image (vv. 26–27). Nothing can thwart His communicative purposes.
Rightly considered, the very word theology (joining the Greek logos, or “word,” with theos, or “God”) reminds us that if we “do theology” at all, it is because theology—literally, a word or knowledge concerning God—has been delivered by God to us first. Even when considering how to build a theology from Scripture, then, we must believe what God says in the Bible, because all true theology is done before the face of God (coram Deo), in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
A Theology of Scripture
Doing theology from Scripture, therefore, begins with recognizing that Scripture is the God-given foundation and only infallible source for all true theology. All Scripture is “breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16) and remains “the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him” (Westminster Shorter Catechism 2). The Bible is God’s personal address to His children. Moreover, God’s written Word derives from the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, who gave it. The Apostle Peter teaches that the human writers of the Bible “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). But elsewhere, Peter tells us that this buoying, breathing Spirit was nothing less than “the Spirit of Christ in them” (1 Peter 1:11). In that sense, Scripture is the letter of Jesus Christ to His church (see Rev 2–3; 22:16). And just as He, now risen from the dead, gives life to all of His people (John 5:21), so His Word remains “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). All Scripture, every “jot and tittle” (as the KJV puts it), is the inerrant Word of God, and, like Him, it will “stand forever” (Isa. 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25).
Sadly, countless self-described theologians replace the statement that “the Bible is God’s Word” with verbiage that sounds similar, but actually is not: “The Bible is a record of men’s experiences of revelation,” they say, “but the Bible is not, itself, God’s revelation.” Or more subtly, “The Bible points to Jesus Christ as God’s revelation, but the Bible is not, itself, God’s revelation,” even sometimes compressed as “the Bible witnesses to God’s Word.” Tragically, those who hold to such formulations deviate from Scripture as the source of true knowledge of God and offer the church nothing more than shifting opinions and high-sounding phrases. Against them all, the psalmist sings to the Lord, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Ps. 119:99).