Thinking Theologically

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In 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote an article called “The Clash of Civilizations.” In it, he predicted that a time would come when the most significant source of conflict among human beings would not be political or economic but cultural. Stated another way, a time would come when conflict would be shaped by worldview more than anything else.

I think it is fair to say that that time has come. More to the point, the time has come when that has become more obvious. I think it’s fair to say that worldview has always been the underlying cause of conflict between people but now, more so than ever, worldview creates stark dividing lines.

Sadly, many of these dividing lines have become political rather than theological. Christians, of all people, should appreciate the need to look beyond the political realities of  here and now to the spiritual war that wages behind the scenes. When Pilate warned Jesus that he had the authority to control Jesus’ fate, Jesus looked beyond the immediate to the ultimate reality: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). The writer of Psalm 74 similarly understood his need to see the world theologically.

The writer speaks of conflict directed against the people of God. The enemy had attacked the temple and intended to “utterly subdue” God’s people (vv. 7–8). While the superscription does not specifically state this, the reference to the destruction of Yahweh’s “sanctuary” and “dwelling place” suggests that the psalm was written in response to the Babylonian desecration of the temple.

Ostensibly, this was a political move. The Babylonian political superpower was moving across the known world, claiming territory for itself. Israel was simply a pawn in the game. News headlines would have told of political and military conquest. But the writer of Psalm 74 understood that there was a more significant element to the conflict. There was a spiritual dimension that was unseen by mainstream media.

Have we learned to do the same? As we read of current events, are we able to look at them through a theological lens? Are we able to look below the surface to the way that God is at work in our lives and in our nation? Often, our experience of events is so traumatic that we are blinded to the reality of the spiritual realm. That is one reason why regular gathering with the local church is so necessary. As we gather with saints, we are able to encourage one another in the work of God despite the turmoil of the week we have just exited.

As you reflect on this psalm, and as you perhaps anticipate another week of turmoil and seeming opposition, train yourself to think theologically. Through prayer, scriptural meditation, and corporate fellowship, allow your worldview to be so shaped that you are able to see God at work when, to all visible evidence, he seems to be completely silent.