How can a church be healthy with so many views?
“Long-held Christian beliefs about everything from the nature of God to morality have been reshaped and have become unimportant to many people.”
Mark Dever’s statement is a sad testament to the reality of the church today. As we continue our discussion on the topic of the health of the church, we must consider the beliefs of the church. How can a church be healthy with so many views? If the church is to be healthy, the church must hold to biblical theology.
Now, I will admit that I am tempted to dive into the nerdy pool known as biblical theology with intensity. However, I want to balance that with a practical view of the church at large. With that in mind, I think it would be helpful to offer a definition. In his book, Biblical Theology, Geerhardus Vos defines biblical theology as, “deal[ing] with revelation as a divine activity.” Revelation is a term that is used to God’s communication to humanity. There are two primary ways that God does this, through general and special revelation (both can be observed in Psalm 19).
We are focusing primarily on special revelation, in other words, the Bible. What we believe, both as individuals and as a church, must come from God’s revelation. This revelation is the result of divine activity, as we learn from Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God…” (ESV). His counterpart, Peter, also teaches us this, “but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21, ESV).
When we consider the health of the church, we must understand that God defines what a healthy church is, and He does so in His Word. Therefore, it is necessary that our churches look to His Word for her health.
Dever, connecting biblical theology to our lives, asks, “How relevant are your own beliefs to your daily life? When you last sat in church, how much did you examine the words of the prayers you heard? How much did you think about the words of the songs you sang? Or how about the words you heard from Scripture? Does it really matter to you if what you said or sang in church was true?”
Think about those questions. When is the last time you asked yourself these questions? I hope that it becomes immediately apparent how our theology (i.e., what we believe) informs and affects our practice (i.e., how we act).
We need only examine the various churches today to see that biblical theology does not inform many churches. But our concern is with our church. How can we ensure our church adheres to biblical theology?
First, we must hold up the Scriptures as the Word of God. It is not just a book of collected wisdom. It is not just a book of morality. It is not just a book of God’s dealing with people throughout history. It is God’s Word, more necessary than bread for life (“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” Matt. 4:4, ESV). The Scriptures, not tradition (though tradition has its place), nor political opinion, nor societies, should hold the place of primacy within the church.
Second, we must submit to the Scriptures for all faith and practice. In the London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689, we read this summary of the importance of the Scriptures, “The whole counsel of God…is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture…The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.” I realize that is a lengthy quote, but I hope it illustrates the importance of God’s Word in our lives and practices in the church.
Third, we must spend time studying and understanding the Scriptures. The Baptist Confession, referring to the Scriptures, states, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain to a sufficient understanding to them.” Notice that phrase “in a due use of ordinary means.” That is, as we use our minds to read and understand the Scriptures, our knowledge grows. This is specific knowledge, as Peter reminds us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…” (2 Pet. 1:3-4, ESV). All things for “life and godliness” are found in the “precious and very great promises” provided to us through “His divine power.” As such, we should spend time studying the Word of God, individually and corporately. We have no excuse not to study.
While much more could be written, I will close with Mark Dever’s words. He writes, “In the Bible we see God giving us His Word—His promises—and we respond to Him by trusting Him—just as Adam and Eve did not do in the Garden of Eden; just as Jesus did throughout His life and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane. And as we hear and believe God’s Word, we begin to have that relationship with Him that He made us for. This is the God whom we can trust and should trust, because His Word will not disappoint. This is what the Bible is all about.” Will our church practice biblical theology? If we are to be a healthy church, we have no other choice.
 Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 58.  Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, reprint 2017), 5.  Dever, 9 Marks, 58.  LBCF, I:6, 10.  LBCF, I:7.  Dever, 9 Marks, 75.