The man who wants to build a house begins with blueprints. Without instructions, he is playing a dangerous game trying to construct something exceedingly complex by more or less shooting from the hip. If house-building is your thing, all you have to do is find a set of suitable blueprints and work from there.
The same holds true for the man who would master a theological system. If his whole point is to end up with a workable system, there are many to choose from. The blueprints you choose for your theological system will have different strengths and weaknesses, as well as a broad range of costs. The man with little time on his hands would do better to find something quick and inexpensive to call home, but there are enormous mansions to construct if one has the time and materials. Not everyone does of course, and that’s perfectly fine.
Of course, even with such variety it’s not as though any old set of blueprints is worthy. You have to do some checking to make sure the architect knew what he was doing, that the electrical and plumbing are up to code, that the math all works out. (And when it’s your first home, you will probably need the guidance of a professional.) God help the man who shoots from the hip!
Assessing blueprints is a worthy task, one I hope to undertake from time to time here. But my main focus, the thing I’m most passionate about isn’t building. It’s design.
The man who wants to design a house begins with a whole collection of blueprints. He takes pictures of the features he likes best when he sees them in his travels, and studies them to understand why he likes them and how he can incorporate them. The man who wants to design a house must be part dreamer, but also realistic about the limits. The laws of nature don’t bend for his fancy. He may adore two different and equally magnificent features only to find they don’t work well together if at all. And like any professional, he will likely find much of his efforts crumpled up and pitched to the waste basket in pursuit of that perfect result.
So the man who would design his own theological system also undertakes an art and a science, a dream to be anchored in a very real world. He must hunt for hidden treasures. He must toil for days and weeks and months. Eventually he must build. Then begins a lifetime of maintenance and home improvement.
The work, my friend, is never done. It never is for anyone.
Today you find me a man with a comfortable house, yet consumed with passion for a mansion. Not to make a name for myself, though who could claim his motives are wholly pure? But what I would not give to construct something beautiful, something to inspire others! I want those who see it to find their hearts lifted, their eyes drawn to the heavens in awe of the truly beautiful One to which all beautiful things point.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10 ESV)
Whatever you or I create will be nothing more than a tent compared to the great city to be revealed when we stand in the presence of God. Yet we dream and build in hopes that others will somehow catch a glimpse of that inheritance, that with Abraham they would look forward to a city whose foundations can never be shaken.