First, allow me a moment to clarify terms. I imagine we’ve mostly heard of systematic theology. That is the practice of taking a variety of topics and gathering all of the biblical data available and then reaching a conclusion about each topic. The most faithful ones will describe how the author came to his or her conclusion while presenting a fair explanation of alternate opinions. Then there is natural theology, which is derived largely from nature and reason. The phrase “nature and nature’s God” from the American Declaration of Independence looks to the order of God’s creation in contrast to the chaos of despotic rule. Biblical theology looks at the information given in the Bible with minimal input from elsewhere. What set the Pharisees and the Sadducees against each other? Biblical theology will get you the pertinent information. Historical theology studies the merging of ideas over time. Francis Schaeffer’s “How Then Shall We Live” is a fantastic look at the ideas that shaped culture in the last two thousand years. Dogmatic theology takes all of the above concepts and funnels them through an organized agreement within a body of believers. All of these are good and useful.
This post is one where I will be looking at a repeating pattern in the Bible, and it will be using a little of each of these categories. I’m not sure it fits in the dogmatic definition though. For lack of a better name, I’m going with the working title of “Macro Theology” as this takes a broad brush for the painting, again for lack of a better descriptive phrase. There is natural observation, biblical information, historical concepts, and is undergirded by a systematic study. If there’s a proper name for this, I’d love to know it.
I believe that all of history is demonstrated in the Bible with Chaos compared to Order. Wisdom vs Vanity. Good vs Evil. As fallen humans, we are prone to look at things in shades of grey. Or is it spelled gray? Anyway, we are prone to accomodate any and every stance to one degree or another, assuming that in different places and times different things are more tolerable than others. But God shows in His word that things are much more black and white. When given a look at the world through the lens of Revelation there are not varities of people on a spectrum of good to evil. There are the earth dwellers and there are the overcomers. We are not in one camp or the other because of our commitment to order over chaos. We are in the order camp because we repent and believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit is given and we begin a lifetime work of sanctification. Even as we have the righteousness of Christ from the first moment, our lives gradually trend toward that direction, never achieving perfection on this side of glory.
This order vs chaos look begins at… the very beginning. Genesis 1:1-2 states that in the beginning, the earth was without form and void. That description comes from a word that can also be translated as “confusion” or “difficult to grasp” or “chaotic.” Immediately, God brings order to the chaos by separating light from darkness. The next day, He separated the waters from the waters, sky and sea. The next day He separated the land from the sea. Once creation was taken from chaos to order, He began to populate it.
The order vs chaos picture doesn’t come into play again until Genesis chapter 3 when the fall of all of mankind takes place. From that point forward, the chaos of fallen humanity is at odds with the order of the people of God. This order vs chaos is shown in the seven generations from Cain and Seth in chapters 4 and 5. In the flood of Noah, all of the earth (the people of disorder) was swept away. But 8 people were left behind. And they inherited the earth (the land) as their home. It is later shown in the patriarchs learning to walk by faith and not by sight, often finding that this leads to conflict with the world around them.
God gave His law through Moses so that His people would contrast from the world, and so the nations would marvel at how great their society was (Deut 4:6). The original mandate was for them to spread the name of the Lord to all the world, but they quickly looked only inward. Patterns of going back and forth between God and the allure of the sinful world are seen for the remainder of the Old Testament. After demonstrating that all of humanity was prone to such lunacy and chaos God sent His son so that the sinful heart could be addressed.
Ever since then, the gospel message and Christian worldview has been used to contrast with that of the world. We preach the gospel and know that it is a message in conflict with a defeated foe. The foe knows this, and knows that the time is short (Revelation 12:12). As time progresses, more and more chaotic worldviews will be shown for what they are as they pass away. On the last and final day, it is the people of God who will be left behind. Blessed are the meek.
1 Corinthians 15:24-25 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
We are observers and participants in this battle between the wisdom and order of God and the foolishness and chaos of the world. Many of the problems we have today are overflow events from this spiritual battle. Many competing ideas throughout the last 2000 years have been shown to be insufficient to fit within reality. Some more than a few times. Many more enemies will be revealed and placed under the feet of Jesus. Most of these ideas will be placed there after a struggle. It is the struggle that we see in the moment, not unlike Peter only seeing the chaotic waves beneath his feet when Jesus was right there in front of him.
Finally we have Practical Theology, which emphasises how you live out your understanding of any of the theologies in the first paragraph. It’s where the rubber meets the road. As you go through your day, I hope something in this post helps you navigate the storms of life and maintain your perspective on Jesus, who is reigning right now, and who will continue to do so until the end, when he delivers the completed kingdom to God the Father, having destroyed every rule, authority and power.