Larry Crabb’s “7 Questions Of Spiritual Theology”

Here’s an excerpt from my recent interview with Larry Crabb at the Worldview Church website about his books Real Church and 66 Love Letters.

My years as a layman in the Bible have persuaded me that   Dr. James Houston once told me that spiritual theology is an understanding of Scripture that changes the way we relate, to God and others, not only the way we think.

I’ve concluded God answers one or more of the following 7 questions in each book of the Bible.  I’ve included what I perceive to be fundamental answers (said very briefly) to the questions.

Q1: Who is God?
The average Christian quickly answers this question with descriptions of God, or with attributes of God.  I’ve asked many congregations to say what comes into their minds when this question is asked.  The answers include such words as love, holy, sovereign, just, omnipotent, Savior, Lord, wise.  I’ve never yet heard a uniquely relational response.  And yet as many trinitarian theologians have noted, God is essentially a happy community of three Persons whose holy love defines their essence, a “dispositional ontology” (Jonathan Edwards’ term), a nature that naturally and always gives who they are for the well-being of others.  That disposition defines relational holiness which in turn defines spiritual formation.

Q2: What is God Up To?
We limit ourselves relationally when we answer with our eschatological millennial position and stop there.  This question directs us to ask what story God is telling, what agenda He’s pursuing, that we can discern in any moment of our lives.  The answer ushers in a “Copernican revolution” that exalts God’s purpose to glorify Himself over the “Ptolemaic view” that is anthropocentric, man-centered in a way that uses God to give us what we believe we need for happiness.  God’s central goal is to people the universe with men and women who relate like Jesus.  As C. S. Lewis says, we’re to go in for the “full treatment,” which will involve dark nights.

Q3:  Who Are We?
Secular psychology builds personality theories on a research/empirical-based epistemology.  A revelational epistemology begins by defining persons as image-bearers, male and female.  As image-bears, we have been created with the human capacity to enter into participation in the divine community, and to find our wholeness and joy in so doing.  To live in rhythm with trinintarian energy means we will relate to others as the Persons of the Trinity relate among themselves.  As male and female, we each have unique opportunity to reveal something about how God relates that the other sex cannot as fully reveal. We are, above all else, relational beings.  As such, there is no “whole person” ontology without interpersonal relationality.

Q4: What’s Gone Wrong?
Again, psychology too often fails to center its answers in sin, evil,  and personal fallenness, defined as rebellious independence from God that pursues our well-being according to our corrupted wisdom. We are thus infected with an anti-God virus that pushes us to live as if God doesn’t exist.  The key here is to define relational sin as central.  Behavioral sin is real and obvious. Relational sin, any relational energy that has self-interest as priority, is subtle and just as real.

Q5:  What Has God Done About Our Problem?
So many differing views on the atonement are being thought through today, such as the Christus Victor model and the moral influence theory.  The penal substitution model, in my view and in agreement with John Stott and Leon Morris and John Piper (among many others, such as John Owen), is not the exclusive but rather the central meaning of Calvary.  Through the cross, God has introduced the New Covenant by which each Christian is gifted with a new purity (forgiveness), a new identity (adoption), a new appetite (desire), and a new power (capacity).  We’re given all we need, not to never fail, but to consistently grow in living and loving like Jesus.

Q6:  How Is God’s Spirit Moving Today?
This is such a big question that can be answered in essential, summary form by saying:  He is transforming us into “little Christs” by detaching us from dependence on any alleged source of life other than God (i.e. crucifying the flesh) and by attaching us to Him in a relationship of vital dependence.  Relationship with Christ slowly becomes our “first thing” and every other good falls into the category of second things.

Q7:  How Do We Join the Spirit’s Movement?
Change happens when we “look bad in the presence of love,” in a community of authentic, broken, grateful people. We learn to arouse the new life in each other by giving what is most alive in us and with vision for who we each will become, and when we provide honest feedback about how the flesh shows up in our relational sin.


5 thoughts on “Larry Crabb’s “7 Questions Of Spiritual Theology”

  1. W. E.:

    The Scriptures, when they are not ignored but rather studied as a whole (both OT and NT), do indeed teach the doctrine of the Trinity (one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God has many names in the Bible, Yahweh being one of them and Jesus being the only name “under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

    As for the tone of this comment, I believe you’ve moved across a line from friendly debate to mean-spiritedness. I would consider your second to last line (that starts with “So what is his name? . . . “) a bit pushy and almost attacking. And your comment “Christianity is a comedy of errors” is not respectful, but mocking. We are happy to have differing viewpoints expressed in the comments section, but comments like these will not be approved in the future. Let’s be civil in our discussion, and we’ll all benefit from the discussion.

    Thanks for reading!

  2. W. E.: I’m not sure you’ll be satisfied with any “chapter and verse” reference I give you. Go read a few of the articles I’ve suggested and they will mention some “proof text” verses for your consideration. Even those “one verse” proof texts have to be understood in the context of what the entire Biblical story teaches about the Trinity.

    I’m curious . . . do you really want to understand the Bible’s teaching on the Trinity, or have you already decided you will not believe it and are merely looking for a debate?

  3. Bill, it’s not that I “can’t” produce the verses you’re looking for, it’s that I won’t spend time arguing in the comments section for a doctrine that is elsewhere thoroughly taught and defended. You’ve written a book debunking the doctrines you feel are not biblical, so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to help convince you here. This blog is not meant for an extended debate about such things, but rather to encourage folks to delight in the gospel. The gospel that proclaims Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for my sins and as the resurrected Lord of all is “the most precious and secure facet” of my relationship with God. The doctrine of the Trinity only further deepens our understanding of the gospel of God’s grace and glorifies God. Do you trust Jesus as He is offered in the gospel as the only way that you can have a relationship with God?

  4. “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
    when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
    the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
    Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11)

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

    “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

    “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:7)

    “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5)

  5. Bill: I’m going to close comments on this thread. I’m not sure I want to debate every issue that you cover in your book. Again, thanks for reading our blog.

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