Monday, May 24, 2010

Right Theology and Idolatry

I read a great quote today by Donald Miller, thanks to Mason over at New Ways Forward.

"...right theology has become a false idol, and when it’s used as a pacifier to make us feel right rather than redeemed, it breeds arrogance and is bait for an offensive, controlling personality."

A good portion of Christianity today is obsessed with having right theology. If you don't have right theology... you don't have anything. I have been in two conversations recently in which, once the the other person discovered I had "wrong" theology", the person began speaking to me in an evangelistic/witnessing sort of manner. My previous indication of belief and use of scripture now meant nothing... I was then spoken to as if I were a blank slate that was there to be written upon.

When you look at the life of Jesus shown in the Gospels, you see very little theology. Instead, you get a lot of very practical instruction on how to approach life, and how to think and behave toward your fellow human beings.

Instead of heeding those words, we have become the Pharisees 2.0

Jesus suggested to the "right doctrine" people of his day that, perhaps, they were missing the point:

"You diligently study the scriptures because you think by them, you gain eternal life."

Right doctrine only becomes important in a paradigm where some are in and some are out. When fear of rejection by God is removed, we are free to hear "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, forgive, hope, bless, trust, love, serve ...." unhindered and unclouded by threats - or promises of reward. Instead those words have value on their own ... and bring life that no right belief ever can.


The Metzes said...

Very well said Andrew. I'm not sure that anyone has opened our eyes to this more over the past several years than David Dark. His Uncle Ben caricature of God is the prevailing image so many have of God . . . and when you draw out the implications of such a theology . . . it's sad, frightening, and disappointing all wrapped up together. Thanks for the thoughts!

Don said...


Whiskypriest said...

Hmm..I'm only new to this blog. Your musings are certainly food for thought, Andrew. I guess your presumption is that all are in? Thanks for your thoughts.

Andrew said...

Adam - the implications of theology are what have been driving me the past few years. It seems like any point of life can be condemned or validated using scripture... so what does one do? I think we have to look at the implications, the results of the theology. By the fruit ye shall know them. :)

Thanks Don!

Whiskypriest - Welcome! Yes, I believe all are/will be in! I think the evolution of that position has been going on for over a decade, but at some point over the past few years I drifted from flirting with Universalism to embracing it.

Jon said...

I agree entirely. Correct doctrine became important as the church developed a heirarchy and aligned itself with the Roman powers - it was used as a means of control and discipline. We still have that hangover now, but because the overwhelming power of the State no longer enforces orthodoxy, each group has its own. At least people get to choose:)

Anonymous said...

I can appreciate the importance of good doctrine - but with a level of balance.

I see having good doctrine as a place to start to find one's way to what is the best ethic on a certain type of action (ie: forgiveness). I can see the usefullness of having a starting point to work from to develop one's beliefs, values, and paradigm in life.

However, in keeping more in the spirit with what you have said, over placed emphasis on 'right' doctrine just kills ones identity. You find yourself swimming more with the crowd and not growing into maturity (which seems to be 1/2 the point with very doctrinally correct churches).

I personally live by the idea 'one's actions speak louder than their words'. I think the key to Christian belief/worldview is the way one (a) loves God (b) loves their neighbor and (c) loves themselves...all morality must flow through those lenses.

Andrew said...

Jon - it has really become clear to me over the past couple of years how much it is all about control. Not always, there are examples of gracious and free faith. But so much of it seems to be driven by a need invalidate the person-hood of the other and just make them an extension of our sense of self.

Society - I agree with your thought that all morality must flow through those lenses. I don't mean to completely diss theology... I am actually rather obsessive about it in some ways. I think I tend to see theology as better or worse rather than right or wrong. Good theology should bring people together in love, whereas bad theology divides people with sourness.

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