Prolegomena. Big word, huh? Although it might sound like something you need to get shots for, there is not one area of theology that people today need to become more familiar with. It is taken from the Greek Pro which means “before” and Legomena which means “to speak” or “to say.” So prolegomena means the things that need to be said beforehand in order to give the learner a better understanding—or better—a foundation for what is forthcoming. In theology prolegomena refers to the issues of theology that need to be learned before one can learn anything further. These issues include theological methodology—how do you do theology? issues of epistemology—how do we acquire knowledge? overviews of theological systems and traditions—what is the difference between traditions? and sources for theology—where do we go for truth? It provides the “rules of engagement” for learning truth. In short, prolegomena is starting at the very beginning.
Now, having said that (and almost lost you!) let me attempt to bring this down where we can taste the relevance by posing some difficult questions. What are your rules of engagement for learning truth? Do you have any? Christians today need to be able to understand and defend their Christian worldview. Christianity cannot exist in a conflicting worldview concerning the nature and existence of truth. Truth. What is truth? How do you answer this? How do you respond to people today who claim that they have their truth, you have your truth, let’s just not force our views on each other? This is an issue of prolegomena. You say the Bible is your primary source for truth? Can you defend that it is a trustworthy source for truth? Can you give a good response to someone who asks “How do you know the Bible has not changed over the last 2000 years?” Can you explain why certain books are in the Bible and others are not? These are issues of prolegomena. How do you respond to someone who objects to your interpretation of the Bible saying, “There are so many different interpretations out there. How do you know that yours is the correct interpretation?” A dogmatic, “Just because I know!” probably will not suffice these days. This is an issue of prolegomena.
Getting the picture? The problem that many Christians have today is that they have not started at the very beginning. Their knowledge of prolegomena is lacking. Most start with the assumptions of their traditions given to them by mom and dad, and, true as they may be, they do not consider that mom and dad may have been an invalid source for their theology. Let’s face it, many well meaning mom and dads, grandmas and grandpas all over the world teach bad theology. If your approach to studying theology is to look for things that simply confirm your prejudice passed on to you by mom and dad, then you are not really “doing theology.” You have skipped the prolegomena that gives you the rules of engagement for doing theology and embraced your assumptions from the beginning.
This method of doing theology (starting with unjustified assumptions) may have worked in times past, but not today. People are different today. We live in a global culture that has access to "mom and dad theology" all over the world. By the click of a mouse or the change of the channel, people are introduced to “mom and dad theology” across the globe. They are confused. They don’t know how to justify one person’s traditional commitments over another. They don’t even know if they should try.
Christians should be a lighthouse of hope in this time of pluralistic despair. Christianity is the only belief system that can actually be seriously challenged and prove worthy of belief. The Bible says that Christ rose from the grave and proved it with “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3) not many “convincing assumptions.” God continually challenges His people “Let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18), not “let us confirm your prejudices together.” Christianity is the only belief system that can start at the very beginning. Christianity can have its beliefs challenged and confirmed by compelling evidence. Christians must reclaim the mind for Christ so that they can walk others not only through the “what” of their belief system, but also the “why.” Christians must learn to love their God with the heart, soul, and mind” (Matt. 22:37). God is not afraid of your questions. Let’s start at the very beginning.
The Theology Program (TTP) of bible.org seeks to do just this—reclaim the mind for Christ. In TTP you will be challenged to start at the very beginning, giving a strong apologetic defense for the Christian worldview. Through the six course curriculum, students will be challenged to develop a thinking process that honors God and created great confidence that the hope that we have is not in vain. Come join us.
To find out more how you can get involved in The Theology Program go here. Our desire is for people all over the world to reclaim the mind for Christ, understanding what they believe and why.