After I had a little debate with Jim, I decided to check out his website, Not For Itching Ears | Calling the Church Back to The Cross. In the process I checked out his latest post, God Doesn’t Care About Your Theology? | Not For Itching Ears. Jim‘s title overstates his argument a bit. What concerns him are the divisions caused by the doctrinal differences between different Christian denominations. Consider this excerpt.
It matters to us, but does it matter to God?
This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Obviously, the doctrinal differences we’ve killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God? Personally, I don’t think so.
Before you get the kindling and tie me to the stake consider what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that God doesn’t care about the Gospel or the church, or the world of lost souls. He does. But our petty little arguments?God Doesn’t Care About Your Theology? | Not For Itching Ears
What bothers Jim is the fact Christians argue, fight and separate themselves because of their theological differences. Is Jim right? Are we foolish to make our theological differences so important? I think the answer is both yes and no. If we consider the definition of theology, then it become obvious that we cannot just ignore our theological differences.
Let’s look at the primary definition of theology.
Definition of theology
1: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience
especially: the study of God and of God’s relation to the worldTheology | Definition of Theology by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com)
Think about the fact that the definition of theology primarily concerns the study of God and His relationship to us. What makes different religions different? Is it not each religious belief different because each religion defines God differently, including God’s relationship to us? Because each religion, be it Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Pagan, and so forth, defines God and His relationship to us differently, each religion strives to love, worship and obey God differently.
Of course, Jim was just talking about differences between different Christian denominations, right? Those differences are not so big and substantial, are they? Well, they were serious enough to split the Orthodox Church from the Roman Catholic Church, and they were serious enough to kick off the Protestant Reformation, an event which led to terrible religious persecution and wars. Why? Different Christian denominations still define God differently, and they define God’s relationship to us differently. Different Christian denominations — different men — teach different things about what it means to know God and obey God.
God has given us His Bible. Almost all Christians use very similar Bibles, varying translations of the same original documents. If we want to resolve our divisions, Jim‘s complaint, then we need to use our Bibles. We won’t all agree about what we think the Bible tells us about God, but we will at least be using the same source and not some eloquent fellow’s interpretation of Holy Scripture.
Remember. The Bible does call upon some of us to be teachers, but whoever teaches has a great responsibility to get it right.
When I presume to teach on this blog, I don’t especially like being corrected, but allowing myself to be corrected is most certainly better than incurring a stricter judgement.
Does the Bible say theology is unimportant?
Think about the way Jeremiah speaks of boasting. It is not about lording over others. Instead, we boast in the Lord by displaying His character, His mercy, His justice, and His righteousness.
When we study our Bibles, we learn about God. So, consider other parts of the Bible that speak of boasting in the Lord.
- 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 NASB – Psalm of Thanksgiving – Give thanks to – Bible Gateway: To thank God we must understand Him and know what He has done for us and why.
- Psalm 34 NASB – The LORD, a Provider and the One Who – Bible Gateway: To seek rescue by God, we must at least believe He exists.
- 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 NASB – The Wisdom of God – For the word of the – Bible Gateway: To understand that the wisdom of God is superior to our own, we must study God’s wisdom, and we must practice His wisdom.
Theology is about knowing who God is. To put God first in our lives, we must first learn who God is. That is the point of the picture above. Before he could put God first for the rest of his life, the Apostle Thomas had to know God.
One last thought. Are our divisions necessarily bad? No. Not if we all seek to follow the example of our Lord Jesus. Consider an old proverb.
We don’t have to use our differences as an excuse to hate each other. Instead, we can see them as an opportunity to sharpen each other. Thus, I use Jim‘s complaint as an opportunity to dig into scripture, and I hope he does the same.
- What is Theology & Why is it Important to Understand? (biblestudytools.com): This article has a section that addresses Jim‘s complaint about the divisive nature of theology. Here the author observes the problem is in us, not theology.
- What is the definition of theology? | GotQuestions.org
- Theology | Britannica
- What are the four types of theology? | Insight – Charles Sturt University (csu.edu.au): This strikes me as a bit oversimplified, but I have often found that an advantage.
- What is the definition of theology? (compellingtruth.org)
Here are a couple of videos that R. C. Sproul put together.