Just me and my Bible: A Journey to Towards a Systematic Theology from Scratch
There are many good reasons to want to study systematic theology and to know your Christian religion better. No matter what conservative branch under the wide “Christian” umbrella you go to there will always be leaders and congregants who firmly believe that we should seek God with all of our heart and walk in His ways. This common principle is expressed in many ways and when it comes to the beliefs and practices of our most holy religion the dedicated members will want to preserve what they think are the truest forms of these. In my times in Baptist churches and a Bible church there was a strong emphasis on knowing correct teaching straight from the Bible and perpetuating it by teaching one another in the Church. For me early on I chose to make this a core principle and a very strong aspiration to seek for. I have been firmly committed to Christianity for almost eight years at the time of this writing. I’ve been through a couple hard situations in my life, but yet I have still managed to hold onto the decision I have made almost eight years ago by God’s grace. Now that’s been a few years I can honestly say that I am shocked to find myself in the situation I am and holding to beliefs and practices that I never thought I would before. For those interested I would like to share a personal testimony of my journey through studying systematic theology. I hope to inspire those to see its importance, but also I hope that my experience can educate others and help them see why my journey has led me to where I am and why it could possibly lead others this way as well.
Aside from my personal study from the Bible I early on decided that I wanted to learn the Bible better and to teach others. The way I felt I could accomplish that best was to learn from a Bible college. For interesting circumstance and reasons I chose a college that was aligned with a church denomination that I was not a part of at the time, but have been previously for a short period. There were already a few differences, but at the time the biggest draw for me was what I believed to be a strong emphasis on evangelization and overall Christian mobilization. Well my time there was cut short half way after being instructed that my differences would impede upon me graduating from said college. Of course the fact that I had converted a girl into also acknowledging these theological mistakes that they made was also a big reason for them to make me reconsider staying at their institution. Anyhow after leaving the college I decided I would enroll into another Bible college that was online and later did so. Before that however I decided that it might be a good idea to create my own systematic theology from scratch using the Bible alone. At the time I was firmly convinced that the only thing you needed to know about Christianity was to be found in the Bible alone. So after a few months I began writing and creating my own systematic theology after the patterns that I had been use to from reading systematic theology books. It wasn’t too long before I had found out that some of the specific understandings that I had held to were not even what the Bible taught. One of the first things to go was my eschatology which was “the pre-tribulational rapture of the church.” While this is obvious to most outside of fundamentalism and Baptist-esque churches to me it was new. I instead felt that a post trib position would be better, but even this lasted only about a month before giving way to what I now believe in, classic amillennialism. Other hard pills to swallow crept up such as “faith alone” and “bible alone” not being based in the Bible. These were especially hard pills to swallow because faith alone was something I was firmly decided upon before. I use to beat people over the head I met when I was out witnessing when I got even the slightest hint that they were not firm in this belief. Bible alone also was tough to admit not to be true because not only had I also heard that this was an extreme core tenet of the faith I also was basing my entire Christianity and systematic theology on it alone. Amazingly Bible alone was one of the last of my major beliefs that I dropped in the long list of things. Which means I have been convinced about many things using the Bible alone; go figure. So even from the Bible alone standpoint I became less and less convinced of protestant understandings. One tool I used to aid myself in understanding theology was Church history. So I studied church history and early church writings to see what positions the church has historically held to throughout time to help me see what could be the most genuine of beliefs. This was very helpful in concreting my belief on amillennialism and later it only strengthened me to take counter protestant positions on other points. Now I was still convinced at this point that Catholics and other such more historic groups were still not the best forms of Christianity. So I decided that I was going to stay an evangelical, start my own churches, and teach very strong Bible theology. The only problem with this is that I began to ponder why I didn’t think that the historic churches were valid when I sided so much more closely with them then I could now with protestants. Lutheranism was out because that is the home of sola scriptura and sola fide. Anglicanism was also ought because although they were close, they are a considerable mess. I eventually started studying Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. I found myself very fond of Orthodoxy and decided I would continue to look into it. After reading a lot of the church fathers to better understand theology it became clear just why Catholics and Orthodoxy believe the many distinctive things that they do and why their church hierarchy is set up the way that it is. Needless to say that going from Evangelical to considering Orthodoxy has been a very big change.
After almost three years of study and doing my best to understand theology from scratch I have found myself in a place I never thought I would be. I never knew it would take this long and be this hard to study, but it surely has been a long ride of intense study. Now after all of this I am 95% sure that I am heading East. I have been inquiring into Eastern Orthodoxy now for almost about a year now. I have made it the church I attend for about six months now. Of course Covid has broken up my attendance a bit. I am going to seek becoming a catechumen of the church soon. It is amazing to think that I went from thinking this group is not even Christian to now thinking it holds the most accurate form of Christianity. Scripture and what the early church wrote and practiced have been instrumental in my learning. Of course it also helped that the church has been preserving the practices and beliefs of the early church throughout history until this day. One of the biggest draws to historical Christianity is the fact that protestant and evangelical beliefs are just so new and not historic that I could not consider their claims to be 100% true. I went from going out on my own authority or evangelical authority (whatever that means) to go start churches to now submitting myself to the leaders whose succession leads back to the Apostles. I am now looking into new ways I might serve God and His Church. It may be different than what I thought I might do, but I am still content to do what I can for God and the spread of the purest form of Christianity. I have always believed that intense study was necessary for the one who wanted to teach and lead God’s Church and I am ever so thankful that I did. I hope to use what I know to further spread the message of God’s kingdom and how Christ has destroyed death by His own death for us. I hope those who read this will study systematic theology, consider historic relevancy of your denomination (when did it start?), consider Orthodoxy, and do their best for Christ.