I was reading through The Marrow of Theologyagain today and I couldn’t help but think we still need to wrestle with what William Ames was saying; “Theology is not a speculative discipline but a practical one…” This is why things like orthodoxy, the creeds and confessions, and the technical theology they express are so important; deep theology can and should lead to deep living. BUT we can and do forget that theology is “a living to God“, as Ames defined it.

Ames even went as far as to say that theology was “a working toward God.” For Ames what we believe about Christ, the scriptures, God, the church, the world and more has immediate and direct relevance for how we live. Theology can make us better lawmakers, better fathers, better deacons. Its the stuff of life. And you genuinely get that sense from Ames’s systematic theology as you read through it. Theology as “a living to God” is part of what captures the minds of so many Christians as they read the Puritans.

Are we ‘Ames-ing’ at the right thing with theology? Sometimes as I read through the latest symposium on some theological topic like atonement, scripture, or justification and watch the fine distinctions we make and then the very general principles we draw about how to live that theology I scratch my head and say, “we sure do value the speculative side, but we need a lot help at seeing its practical impact.” Some of us, myself included at times, think that if we protect truth by means of polemics then the practical benefits of sound theology will just kinda fall into our laps. A bit naive if you ask me…

What does theology look like that is “a living to God“? Well not necessary something striped of systematic categories or interests, but definitely not one that holds out there either. I think the best example of that sort of theology is the way doctrine is joined with parenetic exhortations in the New Testament. The deeper theology got – like in the epistle to the Hebrews – the greater the call to embody the gospel in the Churches life got.

I’m waiting for symposiums on “a living atonement theology”, “a living theology of scripture”, “a living theology of justification”, and more…maybe you’re waiting with me.