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The Need to Reinvent the Wheel

You’ve used the expressions yourself: We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We don’t need to start from scratch. We should take what’s already been done and build upon it. There certainly are situations where such expressions apply. But this is not a universal maxim. There are some things which should be regularly re-invented. Theology is one of them. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we should throw away such doctrines as that of the trinity and the incarnation, pretend they never existed, and try to figure everything out all over again as if nobody ever did before. And yet, that’s exactly what I am saying.

What I mean is that we should not merely assume that these doctrines are true, and build upon them. We should work through their proofs, just like we work through proofs in Geometry. We should be guided through a rigorous process of proving them all over again. Of course, thanks to their previous invention, it should only take us hours, not centuries, to re-invent them.

Why should we re-invent them? First of all, only then will we be genuinely grounded in the faith. We will believe, not just because the creed and the church and the preacher and our parents said so, and it sounded good to us also, but we will believe because we truly see for ourselves that it is the Word of God. Secondly, we should re-invent these doctrines because this will aid the further development of doctrine. As we learn the process of how to soundly prove doctrine, we will be able to test other doctrines, and we will be enabled to develop doctrine on our own. Those speculative theologians who have largely had their own way for the past couple of centuries – we will then be able to put them in their place. They won’t be allowed any longer to get away with the nonsense they’ve been feeding us. Along those lines, the third reason is that some of our pet doctrines may fail the test of rigorous proof. We can remove some of the theological albatrosses which have hung around our necks and hindered us from advancing in our understanding of God’s Word, our spiritual walk, and our good works.

Just think of it. Here’s a young lad who wants to make wheels. You tell him, We’re starting from scratch. Where do we begin? What tools and materials will we need? How do we design this wheel to function properly? How will we test this wheel for its use? If he learns the fundamentals of wheels, he will probably be a better wheel-maker, and possibly a more inventive wheel-maker, than the other young lad who inherits wheel-making machinery from his father. This other lad just grinds out wheels, not understanding exactly how it all works, but trusting in the work of his father, and his father’s father, back to the original inventor of the machinery.

The cause of Christ has suffered much because we have depended too much upon the old machinery, and we have not gone back to learn the fundamentals. It will do every generation good to re-invent everything – not in the sense of throwing everything out, but in the sense of proving it all afresh, so that they know how and why the machinery works. In this sense, we desperately need a re-invention of Christian truth today. The old machinery is breaking down and needs some parts recast. It’s the principles by which that machinery was built which will last forever, not the machinery itself. Who knows how to fix the machine? We need to go back regularly to those principles and to learn to apply them afresh.

What I’m really saying is that we need to move on to maturity, not cling to the old machinery like children clinging to their security blankets. We’ve had several generations of an Outcome Based Religion where we know what’s true, but we don’t really know why by sound conviction, so our application is mushy on the inside and dry-crusted on the outside. In the process of re-inventing the wheel, Christians will come to realize that they’ve been leaving out some important supporting spokes, and they’ve been attaching many unnecessary and hindering parts to the wheels they’ve been churning out.

It’s time we returned to reality. Maturity requires being well-grounded in the principles, well-exercised in how they operate, and well-practiced in the ability to apply those principles to every situation. That man is wise – truly well-educated – who, if it were necessary, he could rebuild a truly Christian culture from scratch using whatever materials were at hand. The intellectual challenge for Christians today is to learn how to re-invent the wheel – that is, how to move on to maturity by deducing everything from the first principles of the Oracles of God.


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