Much of the theology we take for granted is applied theology. It is rooted in chapter and verse, but it is down the road from its source. The chapter and verse are the roots of the tree, but the tree has grown thick, tall, and wide. Sometimes, when we try to force applied theology into a chapter and verse, we undo centuries of work. When we try to put it back in the box it came from, we essentially start over, or worse, we remain at the beginning of the truth never to be strengthened by its application.
Sometimes applied theology requires tracing back to its source to ensure it has not gone awry and still holds true in its applied state. Many ideas have originated from the Bible in good form and yet have strayed down the road from being good theology. This reformation work is essential. But we can only do this rightly if we understand its theological history – not only church history, but world history. While I greatly appreciate judging all thought by The Book, we must do so with understanding of that thought’s history lest we simply demand chapter and verse and dismiss all that is derivative.
What if we could see an illustration like Frank Capra’s film It’s a Wonderful Life where instead of seeing a town without the life of George Bailey, we saw the world without the Bible. We would be quite stunned to behold its barbaric primitive state. Gone are the hospitals, and the culture of caring for the sick and infirmed. The sciences would never have developed because there was no concept of unchanging truth in which they could take root and spring up and out flowering ultimately into both theoretical and applied sciences. Banking would fail. Public education would never have risen. Lost would be the concept that society must see to it that we educate our children. The masses would be illiterate. Without the Bible, Tyndale would not have developed modern English, and Luther modern German. Without the Bible the world would be a mix of unstable Empires and vast lands of anarchy. Freedom would be unknown. Liberty, a foreign concept. Equality, unmerited.
Similarly, if we rewind five hundred years of history, we will find a world with very little applied theology. The Bible was yet to be accessible. It was yet to change the world. Today, we are in danger of forgoing five centuries of history. We are losing the Bible’s impact on our world because we only study chapter and verse for how well it can feed our individual soul. Or we study to understand doctrine better. We study the New Testament world. We study the Old Testament through New Testament eyes. We dig deeper into the original languages so that we can understand chapter and verse better. We examine the text as if under a microscope to eke out every iota of life from its pages, and yet our focus is so narrow the resulting theology has largely become irrelevant to our world.
We live taking applied theology for granted. We do not know our history. We do not know the depths that we can sink to in our future. The state of our nation is not a reflection on the times and the emergence of unwavering evil, but on our loss of theology to disciple nations in truth. It is truth that sets nations free. It is because of Reformation Day (1517) that we can celebrate Independence Day (1776). This is no slight on Catholics. They are an instrumental part of church history – their history is our history. Martin Luther was a Catholic. He only became labeled a Protestant because his movement was so revolutionary it broke from what was to create a new world. Protestants and Catholics both enjoy the fruits of his labor.
We must understand the full weight of the Bible’s impact on our world, how to preserve its influence, and how to continue to develop applied theology where none has been developed. But we are going to have to take our eye off the microscope and use the Bible we have inherited to make earth look like heaven.
What truth in the Bible makes a difference in your industry? What theology has already been developed that we have forgotten that you can bring forward to apply again to engineering, agriculture, architecture, science, health care, the family, marriage, identity, economics, finances, leadership, sanitation, education, etc.
What biblical truth has yet to be applied? Where is the darkness in this world that has yet to have the light of the Gospel to show a better way? What are we seeing in the Bible that gives us that aha moment that we can see extrapolated and applied in a manner that would revolutionize an industry?
We must move beyond the idea that Jesus and the Scriptures only applies to our hearts and inside sacred space, like Church, evangelism, giving to the poor, and our home life. The truth was never meant to be so privatized. There is no secular in the Kingdom of God. While there are different leadership jurisdictions where the Church does not become entwined with the government of a nation, and the Government does not control the Church – we are still to have the influence of God and truth in all spheres of society. In fact, freedom of religion is the truth of Scripture applied to a nation’s government. This idea took centuries to develop as we had to change the way we thought from the day when heretics could be burned at the stake. We did not become more modern. We became more biblical to develop the applied theology of the freedom of religion.
Our founding presupposition that all men were created equal hails not from common sense, but from applied biblical theology. Therefore, it could be drawn forward with confidence as Martin Luther King, Jr. led the way for a revolution in civil rights. British Historian (who writes as an agnostic), Tom Holland, writes in his book Dominion:
“That all men had been created equal, and endowed with an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were not remotely self-evident truths. That most Americans believed they were owed less to philosophy than to the Bible: to the assurance given equally to Christians and Jews, to Protestants and Catholics, to Calvinists and Quakers, that every human being was created in God’s image. The truest and ultimate seedbed of the American republic–no matter what some of those who had composed its founding documents might have cared to think–was the book of Genesis.”Tom Holland, British Historian and Author of Dominion
We can make great inroads in reforming the nations in truth if only we would trade our narrowly microscopic focus of Scripture to the telescopic, holistic picture of applied theology. This means believing the truth ourselves, that the Bible is true truth applicable to every sphere of life, making sacred the secular.
- The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi
- This Book Changed Everything by Vishal Mangalwadi
- Dominion by Tom Holland
- The Reformation of America by Karla Perry
To reform a nation, you need to know what makes a nation truly great. Understanding America’s beginnings creates a pathway forward for all nations. From America’s first President, to the birth of capitalism, to the shaping of its institutions, Karla Perry shows the reader what makes nations flourish.