Theology that Sings
This week I am preaching from Psalm 96. I love preaching from the book of Psalms (though sometimes I can be longwinded when doing this). I love the Psalms for a lot of reasons, but one of those reasons is what Calvin says:
I may truly call this book an anatomy of all the parts of the soul, for no one can feel a movement of the spirit which is not reflected in this mirror. All the sorrows, troubles, fears, doubts, hopes, pains, perplexities, stormy outbreaks by which the heart of men are tossed, have been here depicted by the Holy Spirit to the very life.
The Psalms lay out all of life. They walk us through the ups and the downs. When I read Psalm 96, it is the ups of life that I see most clearly. The psalmist calls out for all of creation to praise the Lord. He does this on the basis of good theology. The Lord made heaven and earth. He is the true God. Therefore he is the only one that deserves our worship. It is this theology that causes him to sing a song of praise to the Lord.
Since I have been in Edinburgh, I have had to answer the question what am I doing here so many times. Whether it be randomly talking to a guy on the street or with people at the University. The funniest moments are when I am coming through immigration and the officer asks why I am coming into the UK. I tell him that I am a PhD student and the very next question is in what. When I say systematic theology, it is often a conversation stopper. You can often see people trying to process what exactly to say next. Usually, it is that’s nice and then there is a look of desperation as they try to find a new topic. It makes me laugh a bit. The idea of talking theology can be intimidating. The idea of talking about theology seems boring.
The thing about it is that theology is often boring. Yet what the Psalms remind us of and what Psalm 96, in particular, has reminded me of is a quote by J.I. Packer:
Theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. It should therefore be presented in a way that brings awareness of the divine presence. Theology is at its healthiest when it is consciously under the eye of the God of whom it speaks, and when it is singing to its glory.
What both Calvin and Packer are reminding us of is that theology is not dry and boring, but good theology is a vibrant singing of praise unto God. The best theology should cause us to sing. The reason for this is because good theology is always placing God before us. Bavinck puts it this way:
It describes for us God, always God, from beginning to end — God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God's virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a 'glory to God in the highest' (Luke 2:14).
Theology then is not some dry intellectual discipline, but a field that engages the whole person. It points us to him who created heaven and earth. It describes the God who has worked so great a salvation for us. It causes us to sing.