Is theology the problem or the solution?

zondervan-theology-collectionOk so let me explain a little because these days, most of the time, theology get’s a bad wrap for causing divisions and arguments etc. I’ll confess up front that I love theology, but in my experience it is not theology per se that is to blame, it’s a little more complicated than that.

One group of Christians (let’s call them group A) tends to give theology a wide berth. They are suspicious because all they see are the arguments and divisions by people with a need to be right and to “defend the truth”. In that sense they do have a point, because many people might have even good theology but use it incorrectly and in ways that cause division and hurt.

However as I have observed these communities I have realised they have a problem. They are often breeding grown for all sorts of emotional, social and spiritual abuse, obviously to varying degrees. These people tend to place more emphasis on the heart and on the relationship with the Holy Spirit, trusting him to guide them rather than engaging the mind too much, which is often treated with suspicion. Again this sounds good but is too easily hijacked by man and his agenda’s, in the name of speaking on behalf of the Holy Spirit.

The second group (group B) strives for good theology, but it tends to be more head knowledge than heart, so while they have a good understanding of many things in the Bible, their hearts and lives don’t change. Truth, if it will change us has to be not only known and understood but experienced too. The problem with this group is they don’t give themselves time to experience their truth. I remember CAR magazine used to have a segment where they would keep a car for 10,000km and then do a detailed review on it, this group of Christians hardly takes their truth out for a test drive

(Quick confession: this is the group I have grown up and been an active part of for 34 years. Essentially when I say I have left religion I am speaking of leaving this group. I do not believe you can leave the Church because Church is something we are not somewhere we go)

As I understand it this group makes theology about being right or wrong and when one does that one becomes divisive by definition. The bible is used to win arguments, it is the answer book and they know where all the answers are. What makes the problem worse is that they believe they are right. This won’t be acknowledge but often the Bible is used to justify their current behaviour or beliefs as more right or scriptural and so they don’t grow spiritually because there is no need to.

There is a new group of people that I am becoming aware of and want to be a part of. These people have a deep, honest and intimate relationship with Jesus. I say honest because instead of declaring they have it all together, they are in touch where their need, their poverty of spirit as Matt 5 talks about. This group doesn’t interpret the Bible as answers, principles, or laws. It interprets the Bible through the person of Jesus.

For this group the Bible is not something to be mastered or systematised. They don’t do good theology to get a relationship with Jesus and his Father, rather their theology flows from their struggles and triumphs in a relationship with Him. They do not seek to master the text but to rather let the text master them. They don’t narrowly ask what is right or wrong but ask how our relationship with God and with man is either helped or hindered by that interpretation.

So in conclusion a lack of theology and bad theology are the same thing and will always be bad. Good theology is better but can also be bad when it becomes the goal. It is Jesus who must be pursued, it is Jesus who is the goal, it is Jesus who is our hermeneutic and if we can allow Jesus to  interpret us, it will be Jesus who will be our theology and our unity.

Would love to hear your comments

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6 thoughts on “Is theology the problem or the solution?

  1. Well, for one of the groups you mentioned, you do not claim enough revelation and do not often enough say “The Lord told me”, for the other group you will not have enough scriptural references ;-). For the third group, you will be an encouragement, this group is unfortunately very small and was small all through the ages, this is one reason that draws you to Christ, because often enough, he will be all you have. I am not claiming any, just sharing my observations.
    Another thing is inside all these groups you find the other groups who is often so hungry for the Lord, they will stand anything to just be where He is: those who live by their spirit. You will find in all these groups those who live by their flesh.
    I battle with this often brother because often exposing this religious system for what it is, is taken personally, or “You must have been hurt somewhere” to feel that way. And often it is simply my approach that is offensive.
    In one of your previous emails, you spoke about the two trees in the garden, I think it all comes back to that.

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    1. Thanks Christo, I love what you say here, I have had similar experiences and it can be so hard to share the distinctions amd yet not be or look like you are being critical

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  2. Yes, the two trees phenomenon sums up a lot.

    For most of my “christian life,” I have expunged or at least minimized the importance of any formal theological process in how I lived or thought about my life in Christ. Recent years have found me spending hours on the web, haphazardly obtaining the theological education I had been avoiding. The result is that I am a bit more agile and conversant in certain theological terms. Am I closer to the One who is the object of theology or am I better at expressing, or allowing Him to express Himself through me? I am starting to hear whispers to come closer to Him and they aren’t coming from anything I am reading. Yes it has been helpful to develop a better framework and understanding of certain things that I have really known all along and, hopefully, that can help me to help others better understand Jesus and refute or challenge much of the thinking that gives us false conceptions of Him and separate us from His love. Barth has helped toward this as well as Roger Olson, who has helped to affirm what I have always known about the love and preveniently(just made that up!) gracious love of God in Jesus.

    Keep at it Justin! I am enjoying your posts. Pray you are well and abounding in His love and grace. Blessings to you and your family!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Chris. Is so much fun to connect with people who get this.

      That is exactly what I am saying. For quite a while I have been struggling with prayer because I found my prayers so self-centeres and manipulative. What I was calling faith was actually me trying to manipulate God to do for me. So I have spent some time reading the bible and other theologians trying to untangle my prayer life and find an authentic way for me to pray. However now that I know that, I still need to engage God and start to practice this new way of praying.

      For me this is where Jesus stands head and shoulders above everything and everyone. He didnt just have right theology, his actions showed he used it to love AND all of that first flowed out of this beautiful and dynamic relationship with his Father, that he gives as a gift to us.

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  3. Nee had much to say on prayer. For me, it starts with the principle of “on earth as it is in heaven.” I believe our part is to discern and seek after what is His will in Heaven and then to pray with that in view. Of course, I can only speak for myself and from my own experience as to how I have felt led to pray over the years. I try hard to disengage my mind and when I pray for people, I would rather not have too much information, but try to sense after what I believe the Spirit would pray through me. The results have often been quite surprising, but that may just be a matter of His specific gifting at work in me, or maybe I am just deluded.

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