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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers theological questions, exclusively on

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1. Theology - Doctrine

Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index


I am a Pentecostal pastor and a theological student. I have on my bookshelf your Renewal Theology. I do have one question. Many theologians claim that Pentecostals are pneumacentric rather than christocentric. While this may be the case in some Pentecostal circles, it has not been my experience. The Australian Pentecostal scene is very christocentric with a healthy interest in the Spirit. What are your thoughts on this matter?

I would say that genuine Pentecostalism is neither christocentric nor pneumacentric. It may seem pneumacentric to many evangelicals because of their lack of a defining experience of the Holy Spirit.

So hold in there, dear brother!

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Is Calvinism a true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? It appears to be false but really close.

Calvinism stresses the sovereignty of God over all things. It goes to extremes on such matters as predestination but holds to all the essentials of the Gospel. Calvinism at best glorifies God in everything.

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What is Renewal Theology?

Renewal Theology is the ordering and exposition of all basic Christian beliefs as they relate to the contemporary spiritual movement known as Pentecostal and Charismatic. Its major focus is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts that are being renewed in our time. This theology is represented in part by my book Renewal Theology (3 volumes, now compiled into one single volume.)

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Explain what is meant by an "argument from silence." Should we build doctrine or theology based on the argument that Scripture does not specifically address the particular point? For instance, our pastor does not believe the Church should have youth ministries with a youth pastor because there are no instances of them in the scripture.

The "argument from silence" is a specious one. To be sure, the Church must always be faithful to the doctrines of Christian faith but also be free under the guidance of the Holy Spirit for new and different expressions.

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   Could you explain "Open Theism" and do you agree with it?

"Open theism" is a contemporary view held by an increasing number of theologians that the future is open to God. So, in some sense, they affirm that He is not omniscient. A title of one popular openness book is God Who Risks. The openness theologians believe that this view also protects the freedom of man because the future is not absolutely fixed. In my view, openness theology makes God too small and man too large.

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  What is theology and what role should it play in the life of a Christian?

Theology is sometimes called "the queen of the sciences" because it deals with ultimate truth. Theology goes beyond all sciences, however, in that its sphere is God and the world. Theology reflects upon God's activity in creation, redemption, and new life. Since theology deals with matters of eternal significance, it should play an important role in the life of a Christian.

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  Is theology as important as scripture, prayer, or religious experience?

No. Theology occupies a secondary place to all three. Theology, however, is based on Scripture, energized by prayer, and vitalized by religious experience. As a result, the reflection of theology has its own unique significance.
(See Renewal Theology, 1, chap. 1)

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  What is "liberation theology" that I keep hearing about? Is it wrong or right?

"Liberation theology" represents a movement, largely in Latin America and among Roman Catholics, that focuses on liberation from social oppression and injustice. A vital theology, its adherents claim, must speak to how this liberation can be brought about. All other theological matters should be subservient to a social concern for the poor and oppressed. See, for example, G. Gutiérrez's A Theology of Liberation.

To reply: However much there is need for such concern, and its proper place in a vital theology, the deeper spiritual need is little recognized. Jesus declared that He came "to preach the gospel to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives…to set free those who are downtrodden" (Luke 4:18). This was, and is, a gospel not primarily of societal alteration but of relief from inner oppression and bondage. "Liberation theology," while concerned about the social plight of the poor and oppressed, falls short in relating to the far profounder spiritual plight of all people.

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  What is the difference between Reformed Theology and Renewal Theology?

Reformed Theology refers generally to the theology of the Protestant churches that broke away from Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century. More particularly the term Reformed Theology is used to refer to the beliefs held by those churches influenced by John Calvin. Reformed Theology is especially noted for its emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

Renewal Theology is interdenominational in nature. It is the ordering of Christian beliefs as they relate to the contemporary spiritual movement known as Pentecostal and Charismatic. Its major focus is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts that are being renewed in our time. This theology is represented in part by my book Renewal Theology (3 volumes, now compiled into one single volume.)

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  What is your view on end times theology?

Theology deals with all time-the beginning, the present, and the future. We need to reflect on all three. An "end times" concentration may lead to imbalance. However, a failure to treat the end times is a serious neglect. (See Renewal Theology, 3: chapters 8-15 on "Last Things")

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   What is "Five Point Calvinism"?

The so-called "Five Point Calvinism" is contained in the acronym TULIP: T-Total depravity, U-Unconditional election, L-Limited atonement, I-Irresistible grace, P-Perseverance of the saints.

Arminianism, incidentally, modifies especially these last four points by affirming conditional election, universal atonement, resistible grace, and the possibility of apostasy.

"Five Point Calvinism" is held traditionally by those in Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

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  I know the Lord's Prayer is in the Bible, but where did the Apostles' Creed come from? Is it biblically based? Where is the support for the statements "He descended into hell" and "the communion of saints"?

The Apostles' Creed goes back to approximately A.D. 700, although segments of it are found as early as the second century. This creed was not written by the apostles, but is generally recognized as being faithful to their teaching.

The statement "He descended into hell" was added to the original Creed some years later and has not been universally accepted. It is omitted in many versions of the Creed. However, the statement vividly expresses the full extent of Christ's vicarious sacrifice, even suffering the torment of hell for all people. (See Renewal Theology, 1: pages 359-360.)

The "Communion of saints" in the Creed refers to the fellowship of believers. It is not a communion with saints in heaven (a common misunderstanding) but of saints on earth at all times and in all places.

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   What is apologetics?

It is a theological discipline that presents argumentation and evidences for the validity of Christian faith. Peter writes: "Always…(be) ready to make a defense [Greek-apologia] to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). Paul declares about himself: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it point to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). The intention of apologetics is to provide, in so far as possible, a rational defense of the Christian faith. Apologetics is directed to the world of unbelief and attempts to establish certain aspects of Christian faith-for example, the veracity of Scriptures, the existence of God, and the immortality of the soul-as true on the basis of rational and empirical evidence.

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  What is the function of theology?

There are basically five functions: clarification, integration, correction, declaration, and challenge. I describe hereafter the first two.

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It is important to set forth as clearly as possible what it is that the Christian community affirms. This is primarily for the benefit of persons in the community who need instruction in the faith. Often there is lack of understanding in various doctrinal areas. Participation in Christian experience is, of course, the primary thing, but this does not automatically bring about full understanding. Much further instruction is needed in order that increasing clarification of truth may occur.

It is a sad fact that many Christians are quite unclear about what they believe. They need-and often want-instruction about the contents of the faith. They are calling out for more adequate teaching. This is the task that theology is called to perform.

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Theology should help bring it all together by integrating one truth with another. Theology is not only a matter of clarification of individual doctrines but also the demonstration of how these fit into a total pattern. In the teaching of theology there is the continuing effort to show how one part relates to another.

For many Christians there is need for integration of their Bible reading and study into a unified picture of truth. The Old and New Testaments in many areas of doctrine are not easy to relate to each other. This is also the case of relating the teaching of individual books to one another. There is also need among many Christians for integrating the truth they have received with various aspects of their own experience. This is true both in relation to their own Christian experience and their day-by-day experience of the world around them. They are largely ignorant of how it all fits together.

(See Renewal Theology, 1: pages 19-20.)

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