In the first volume of this work, Van Mastricht discussed whether theology was theoretical or practical. He said it is not just theoretical, a matter of the intellect, but also practical, a matter of living.
A Christian theologian should not just be noted for his learning and academic skills, but also for his piety and love. Time and again in Scripture God calls his people to trust him and obey him, to love him and love others. Solid biblical doctrine does have to do with intellect, but it’s also a matter of the heart and one’s ethics. Petrus Van Mastricht (d. 1706) was a very able Reformed theologian who was brilliant in many ways. However, in his major work on systematic theology, Van Mastricht was very clear that theology and practice go hand in hand. He called his systematic theology “Theoretical-practical theology.”
In the first volume of this work, Van Mastricht discussed whether theology was theoretical or practical. He said it is not just theoretical, a matter of the intellect, but also practical, a matter of living. In fact, Van Mastricht argued that theology is “preeminently practical.” Here’s one of his conclusions:
“So then, first, it is not true theology, and a person is not a true theologian–and thus not a genuine Christian– (1) who either in speech or indeed, makes theology in the Christian religion the art of knowing and disputing, while at the same time he ignores and neglects the practical knowledge of living and is one who has merely the words of the saints, but not their life, as Bernard of Clairvaux said somewhere. Even Seneca calls this a fatal itch of clever men, that they prefer disputing rather than living; (2) who passes himself off as a theologian and a Christian, but in the meantime does not live for God through Christ, but rather lives—be it for the world, or the flesh, or leisure—fundamentally, for himself; or (3) who though perhaps he even strives to live for God, does not live for God so much through Christ as through his own strength.”
Shane Lems is pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, WI. This article is printed with permission.