Theology for Ordinary People

I don’t understand cooking shows. The full range of my cooking skills involves cooking rice and a few tricks on how to prepare quick meals appropriate only for college dorm life. Beyond that, I’m totally useless in the kitchen. My wife Donna is different. She’d watch a YouTube video about a recipe and in less than an hour she’d come up with her own version of whatever dish she’s interested in.

Some people’s attitude towards theology is a lot like my attitude towards cooking. They don’t care how it is done as long as they get to eat. Here’s the snag though: while you can survive without lots of cooking skills, you can’t do the same for your spiritual life. Your growth, discipleship, and Christian living demand a good grasp of the gospel. There is an intellectual component to our faith that we can’t afford to ignore. The Bible says we need to love the Lord with all our minds too. We need concepts, categories, history, and vocabulary to make sure we are not missing the point.

This is the driving motivation behind Theology for Ordinary People (TOP), a closed Facebook group I created months ago where I talk about simplified theology for regular church folks. I wish to help people fill this knowledge gap so they can learn the vocabulary, history, concepts, and categories of theology in order to enrich their discipleship efforts.

The past five sessions at the TOP have all been about Christianity and culture. We discussed pandemic related themes like the legitimacy of online church services, the problem of pain, and the gospel and politics. Starting August 25, we will dive in to more robust theology with our upcoming theme called “Ordo Salutis.”

Pardon my obvious penchant for weird sounding words but I think it is good for contemporary Christians to be familiar with words and phrases used by the church in its long history. The Latin phrase “Ordo Salutis” simply means “order of salvation.” It refers to the series of consecutive steps the Holy Spirit does in a person to do the work of salvation. It answers the question: how does salvation happen?

This is useful for those those who do personal evangelism and follow up. Sometimes when we preach the gospel to someone, we are elated when that person prays the prayer of salvation. We excitedly announce on social media that someone is going to heaven and angels are rejoicing, only to find out later that that person didn’t actually believe what you said. What happened?

It could be one of the following: the guy is polite, he didn’t want to hurt your feelings so he said yes to prayer. Or maybe she grew up in a traditional family where her grandparents taught her “na huwag tatanggihan ang grasya,” so she said Yes to something you call good news. Or maybe he just wanted you to be done with your gospel presentation so he agreed to the prayer. Whatever the reason, the fact is that most Filipinos don’t have a problem ‘accepting’ Jesus over and over again even if they don’t really believe him. We are a religious and polite society. We never say No to God, even if in our hearts we don’t know if he is real.

This is a challenge to our evangelism efforts. We have led so many people to prayer of acceptance but that’s the end of it. They have no interest in church and discipleship. They act as if the prayer you both prayed didn’t happen.

Understanding the order of salvation (Ordo Salutis) addresses this problem. In this online study, we will tackle the steps the Holy Spirit does to effect salvation. We will clarify what regeneration, conversion, justification, and other related terms mean.

Why is this necessary? Just one reason: because we are a discipleship movement and we need to ground our evangelism on solid biblical footing. We can’t just keep tossing the line “what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago” without substantiating it. What did he do then? Let’s discuss that. Consider this as your invitation to the next episode of Theology for Ordinary People over on Facebook.

Join me on August 25, 6:30pm. To register, click here. See you!

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Jojo Agot

Pastor at Victory. Teacher and writer at Every Nation Leadership Institute (ENLI). MA in Theology and Mission at Every Nation Seminary.