January 9, 2012

Theology Matters

Early last year I received an email from someone who'd visited our church. In the email they asked me a pretty loaded question: "My partner and I have visited a couple of times and are wondering if your church welcome homosexuals?" My response was probably not what they were wanting to hear, but it was the truth. I told the person: "Anyone is welcome at The Brook. Our desire is to share the love of Christ with everyone. That said, we firmly believe that part of that 'love' is boldly proclaiming His Word and holding firmly to the truth of scripture. And we believe that scripture clearly teaches that homosexuality is a sin. You will hear that taught and preached at The Brook, just like you will hear that adultery and lying and drunkenness and cheating on your taxes is sin as well." Again, I am fully aware that this is not the response they were looking for. But the reality is, this is not just an issue that arises with a person struggling (or settling) with homosexuality. In truth, an enormous percentage of nominal Christians want to simply say, "I'm not really concerned about theology and doctrine. I just love Jesus. Can't we all just agree on that?" And the very simple answer to that incredibly naive question is "No".

This issue resurfaced yesterday when someone who was visiting The Brook shared that they really liked it here - especially that their kids loved being in our Children's Ministry - BUT they were concerned that we might not see eye-to-eye on some doctrinal issues. Major Issues. Like creation and evolution. Issues that call the validity and integrity of Genesis - and ALL of scripture - into question. Apparently they had come from a church that held to a "loose interpretation of the biblical account of creation". (Not being part of this conversation, I'm not really sure where or when their red flag went up since I was preaching out of Revelation. But something alerted them to the fact that we might not be on the same page in some major areas of theology.) I'm seriously hoping and praying to be able to have a conversation with this person (couple or family) for a couple of reasons:

First off, I believe that while we may disagree on Day/Age Theory - that the first "day" wasn't a 24 hour day, but a period of time - that's one thing. But to start leaning - or in their case, having jumped off the cliff - into Theistic Evolution - that God created, but He chose to do it through evolution - puts us on 2 completely different sides of an enormous chasm. [To call the Creation account - that "God made man in His own image" - into question, calls ALL of scripture into question. Think about it: Did God come to earth as a monkey only to "evolve" into the "Son of Man"?] I hope to have an opportunity to explain to them why I believe their theology is incredibly dangerous.

And second, with all the love in my heart and with every ounce of compassion and grace the Lord gives me, I would encourage them that, if this is firmly the belief they hold to, we are definitely NOT the right church for them. Doctrine is that important. Theology is that vital! And that's what has shaken me to the point of needing to say this:

To hear "Christians" ignorantly say things like, "I'm just not concerned about theology" is not only alarming, it's frightening. We have to comprehend what's actually being said:
I'm a "child of God", but I don't really care about the "study of God". 
I'm a "child of God", but I really don't care about actually KNOWING Him.
I'm a Christ-follower, but just don't bother myself with understanding what it actually means or looks like to follow Christ.

Are we serious?

It doesn't work this way. It also doesn't hold water to say things like, "I don't really care much about the Old Testament. I mean, we're living in the New Covenant, right?" Uh, no. Actually yes, but no. To begin to understand that the Gospel is the whole message and story of the redemptive history of the God of all creation reconciling people back to Himself through His Son - and that the Old Testament is just as much a part of that story as the New Testament - we come to the conclusion that scripture - from Genesis to Revelation - are the life-giving, mind-transforming words of God. They are Truth. They are LIFE!

If you're looking for a church - for a new church home - a church "family" to belong to - doctrine and theology aren't important; they're essential!

And if you're a Christian - a follower of Jesus Christ - theology is not something that should trouble or bother you; it should CONSUME you! The opportunity to know and to understand the God of the Universe - to know Him more today than we did yesterday (as feeble and minuscule as our attempts may seem) - is a privilege we don't deserve. But we've been given this opportunity because of the Cross of Jesus Christ and because of the power of His Holy Spirit illuminating scripture, piercing our hearts, and transforming our minds.

Theology matters.


George&Deb said...

Wow that is awesome Brian. I myself have run across many so called Christians that feel that theology is for the nerds or preachers. I REFUSE to let my lamp burn out when he comes. I hope to have barrels of oil.
Your Brother in Christ

Linda said...

I want to be consumed by the love of God. I want to understand what He wants me to understand and I pray I seek what falls in line with the truth of His word. I've seen those consumed by theology and they lose sight/balance of simply sharing the Gospel. The debates and discussion consume them. I totally understand and agree that theology is important but it has to be balanced and not become a debate club topic. Thanks, Brian, for preaching/teaching through prayer, preparation and sharing of God's word.

Brian Mayfield said...

Amen, George!
Totally agree with you Linda. If our theology doesn't compel us to share the Gospel, our theology is incomplete and lifeless.

Preston N said...

I once recall someone at a church I use to attend that told me "You know Preston, you read the Bible too much, and that can be a dangerous thing". It is this attitude that many people in today's churches have when it comes theology. Many view theology as something negative, that causes debates and division.

Yet, theology is not the culprit. I have come to discover that the real issue is hermeneutics - rules of biblical interpretation. I realize for many this word may sound like some cult following, but it is essential to any theological study or discussion. I have yet to find a church that will actually teach their members these fundamentals to obtaining sound theology, and prevent many theological "sword fights". Instead most will leave it up to their pastor(s) to make sure he does all of their interpreting for them. Yet, in eternity it is up to each of us to make sure we packed our own parachute when it comes to knowing sound doctrine and making sure we are out of the weeds. If more people would learn the method of interpretation that Jesus used, then many theological arguments and strife can be avoided

(BTW - debating is not always a bad thing. Its when it is being done in order to just win for pride when its wrong - but defending the faith or truth is often necessary).

Preston N said...

BTW - If I could here is a great paper on why theology is so vitally important to being a Christian and why having sound theology is a commandment directly from God.


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Chris said...

Came across your blog doing some research on topics of sin and decided to keep reading...totally agree with you in "Theology Matters" was reading a book in prep for marriage "When Sinners say 'I Do'" by Dave Harvey and the book starts by saying that ALL of us are theologians whether we like it or not.

Goes on to quote Tozer and say that the most important thing that matters is what we think of God. It is what ultimately shapes our lives.