[An essay written rapidly and without correction in three hours, to answer the exam question:
            "What is the relation of theology to the church?"]:

INTEGRATIVE COMPREHENSIVE EXAM  Day 3                                 TEDS, Ph.D. in NT, Aug
11, '97
                                                  
  1 Peter 2:9 provides a convenient structure on which to discuss the relationship of theology to the
church, in that it enumerates many aspects of who/what the Church is, and then directly explains why
this gathering of people has been elected and called into existence:  in order to ex-angelw (proclaim, or
literally announce outwards [implied: to the world, to those outside the group] what are the areteh of
God (excellencies, reason-for-praise, virtues in 4 Maccabees and other Hellenistic documents).    Who
are we, and what is the  theological task of the church?

BUT YOU ARE
      A CHOSEN RACE
      A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
      A HOLY NATION
      A PEOPLE, GOD'S OWN PEOPLE
SO THAT
          YOU MAY ANNOUNCE THE EXCELLENCIES/VIRTUES
                                                OF THE ONE WHO CALLED YOU
                                                                               OUT OF DARKNESS
                                                                                INTO HIS OWN MARVELOUS LIGHT.
       The whole gist of this essay may be found in this simple formula:  the church can only proclaim the
excellencies of God, of the One who called her out of darkness into his marvelous light, if it KNOWS
those excellent virtues.  The church cannot proclaim what it does not know,  and churches deficient in
theological truth proclaim theological error.
       Theology's relation to the church is that of instruction in truth (etymology of theo-logia:  reasoned
understanding of God).   Theology is biblically-based reflection, instruction of apostolic truth from duly
qualified doctors of the church to the next generation of the church (2 Tim 2:2);  but it is not mere
transmission.  Theology is ever creative and reflective upon the once-given eternal truths of Scripture in
a contemporary context, the arrangement of biblical propositions into a coherent framework which
communicates effectively to a particular generation and social context.
   The basis of the theology which the church creates, learns, and instructs its people is the Bible, the
Word of God written.  Therefore, apart from a thorough knowledge of the Bible, the church cannot
perform the task for which it has been gathered.  The necessary pre-eminence of the New Testament,
then, in the theological disciplines is a logical outcome of this recognition, as briefly noted below in
preliminary fashion:
 An understanding of the New Testament is the only assurance of right understanding of the Old
Testament (cf. John 5:39, and further reasoning supplied below for this otherwise
admittedly-problematic assertion).  Systematic theology is derivative from the Scriptures, and a
synthetic arrangement of truths or propositions found throughout the course of Scriptures.   And
historical theology is the record or study of how the church has in many generations approached this
task of synthesizing and systematizing the truths of Scripture
(a best-case scenario!).
     Towards the end of the essay we will return to these disciplines, to further elaborate their
relationship to one another in the theological education of the church, and to attest from a personal
perspective why focusing on study of the New Testament was the natural choice for me personally as I
made the step to be credentialed as a doctor of the church.  But for the moment let us return to 1 Peter
2:9, where the church and its theologically-informed task are before us.
                                                         
1 Peter 2:9  
BUT YOU ARE
  That the "you" addressed in 1 Peter includes Gentiles is indicated, among other places, at 4:3f, where
their former way of life, now to be abandoned, was "among the Gentiles," who are surprised that the
churchfolk "no longer" run with them in the same habitual dissipation,  and also by 2:10 "once you were
not a people,
now you ARE the people of God," which, while originally a quotation from Hosea towards
apostate/redeemed northern Israel, seems here to emphasize the new state of those addressed by Peter,
very like Paul's argument in Ephesians 2, where the former "estranged and foreigners to the Household
of God" are informed of their present equality with Jews in God's one household, His one people.

A CHOSEN RACE
The election theme running throughout the whole OT-NT in continuity is applied to a series of terms
which Jews undoubtedly understood as their own unique prerogative prior to this  (drawn in 1 Pet 2:9
primarily from Isaiah 43,  and secondarily from Ex 19, Deut 4 & 7, and Isaiah 61.)
A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
Cf. Exodus 19 ;  Cf. Day 2 comp. paper conclusion on redeemed who offer sacrifices of praise. Cf.
Luther's "priesthood of all believers".
A HOLY NATION
In Greek,
ethnos hagion would qualify as an oxymoron to  Jewish ears!  But Peter knows precisely
what he is doing here, and rubs it in.  The church is indeed a holy "third race," as the next generation of
pagans would come to call them; neither Jewish nor Gentile but something other. The move in Rev 7's
two half-scenes, from a Jewish tribal crowd to a universal crowd of redeemed from every tribe and
nation, parallels the understanding of Peter here.

A PEOPLE, GOD'S OWN PEOPLE
 This term would seem almost advisable as a substitute for the term "church" today, as 2000 years of
baggage have been loaded onto the term "church" in the minds, especially, of those who are not a part
of it.  "The people of God" captures the OT-NT continuity assumed by the first apostolic generation
(and those immediately subsequent to it - see, e.g., Justin's Dialogue with Trypho), and the personal
warmth of the terms as they were used by the original NT writers.  The New Testament documents
(and their authors) inevitably see the church as a group of people, not as an institution, whereas 20
centuries of history have altered the referent of "church" in the modern vocabulary to something very
different from its original first century locus of meaning.  The church is the people of God.  But for most
people "the church" means the visible institution, not the invisible city of God alluded to by Augustine in
his book by that name, but rather the visible Church that medieval catholicism took over from the
fathers (and so crushed movements like the Waldensians and the Hussites, etc. if it could).

SO THAT

  The purpose for the church's having been chosen, redeemed, called, and placed on a hilltop in plain
sight of the world, is now laid out:

So that YOU MAY ANNOUNCE THE EXCELLENCIES/VIRTUES OF  THE ONE WHO
CALLED YOU
GO ON TO PAGE TWO OF ESSAY