2 Minute Theology
There was a community service requirement for my high school, designed to make us well-rounded individuals, padding our college applications, and ensuring that local community organization didn’t think too poorly of “kids these days.” As a soon-to-graduate senior I quickly discovered that serving as a docent at a local marine science museum counted under the criteria for community service. It seemed like a good fit, after all, I was fascinated with all things oceanic and couldn’t wait to graduate. The only thing that stood in my way was the interview.
A single interviewer conducted the interview, a woman in her mid–40’s, of the type of woman who spent her entire career heretofore working for museums. I wonder now looking back on it if these potential high school docent interviews didn’t serve as a kind of comedic relief for her. So there I sat, waiting to be quizzed on marine science, feeling even more awkward than a teenager normally does. Then came her question, “Talk for 2 minutes on any topic that you’d like.” I’ll admit that I didn’t expect that question. I’m also happy to report that I passed the interview without resorting to grunting out “umm’s” interspersed with “like’s” and “you know’s.”
For most of us, talking for two minutes in an informed manner about any subject can be difficult. What helps is having already walked over topics in your mind and committing some sort of summary to memory. The Bible does this at several points and allows itself to be so summarized at even more points. For example, JI Packer’s famous summary of the gospel is, “God saves sinners."1 With that three word summary phrase you could expand in multiple directions with as much detail as time allowed. But what about the simple question, “What does the Bible teach about God?” The Westminster Larger Catechism2 provides a similar summary for us, something we could store away and pull out at need, short enough for a brief conversation, yet long enough for deeper discussion as well. The answer has four parts.
First, God is! The author of Hebrews writes, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”3 This is the first part of our summary statement. For why should we even ask questions about God if there was not a God to ask about? But this is more than a statement against atheism. It is more than a statement against polytheism or an all-roads-lead-to-God type of nonsense. The statement, “God is,” is a bold statement about the singularity and eminency of the God of the Bible. Christianity is unique as it is the true revelation of the God who is4 , the true God5 , who will accept no rivals.6
Secondly, God is Trinitarian. A full-fledged defense of Trinitarian theology will be a little much for a post like this7. It is enough to say that the Bible teaches that God exists in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these members of the godhead receive the names, praise, characteristics, and perform the works of God.
Third, God has a plan. Traditionally the word we use for God’s plan is his decree, his singular purpose to glorify himself in all things8, especially the created order as we know it. This decree works itself out in both how God created all things from nothing and how he is now orchestrating it to a grand climax at the return of Jesus9. So this Trinitarian God is not just aloof, twiddling his thumbs, allowing things to play themselves out with greater or lesser involvement by him. Instead he is focused and intentional in the unfolding of every detail of space-time, from the smallest hair on the unlikeliest of human heads to knowing the names of every star.
The fourth part of our summary statement is that God’s plan has been carried out in events that have been recorded in the Bible. The Bible is not primarily, as some would suggest, a book of promises, as if there were bulleted lists of divine well-wishes for humanity. The Bible is the history of God’s fulfillment of most of those promises.10 And those promises all rush toward or flow from the person and work of Jesus, even as history hurtles toward his glorious return.
I don’t expect you to meet a marine science museum administrator with the expectation of you speaking for 2 minutes on a topic. But if you are a Christian I do expect you to be able to give a description of the God in whom you hope.11 In order to be ready on that day it is fitting for you to prepare today. You can do that by memorizing and meditating on short summary statements about our Christian faith. The one we’ve looked at here is for answering the question, “What does the Bible teach about God?” With our four part answer you could simply reply, “The Bible teaches that God is Trinitarian, the God who working out his plan in human history.”
1. You can find this summary in Packer’s excellent introduction to Owen’s, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”
2. Question 6 answers, “The scriptures make known what God is, the persons in the Godhead, his decrees, and the execution of his decrees.”
3. Hebrews 11:6
4. Exodus 3:14
5. Jeremiah 10:10
6. Exodus 20:5
7. By current statistics you’ve already stopped reading this post or at least have only skimmed it and so missed this footnote.
8. Psalm 115:3
9. Eph 1:10
10. Though there is some debate on how many promises remain outstanding we can, nevertheless, subsume them in toto under the title “eschatology.”
11. 1 Peter 3:15