Why Theology Matters…..

I am a very protective older brother. I have a teenage sister. She’s doing a summer ministry internship where she got assigned a church to go to. Unfortunately for her, she got assigned to a church where the people are crazy. If you don’t where a dress, head coverings, suit and tie, you’re not welcome. As rigid and judgmental as the dress code is, the teaching, morality and theology of this church is even worse. Recently, I received a phone call from her and she told me about how the sermon was about the roles of men and women in Church. The pastor taught that if a woman thought that she was equal with a man in regards to any form of church leadership or position, she was already in sin. The pastor taught that women need to learn and accept their rightful place in the church, home and society…… Under a man.

This is why Theology matters…. It has the power to devastate people.

One of my best friends is a guy who a few years ago was ready to give up on the Christian faith. When I was first introduced to him, we bonded very quickly. We shared past’s of spiritual abuse and we both affirmed the deep rooted pain that Christian had caused us. The previous years before that, I had begun reading people like N.T Wright, Jurgen Moltmann and Henri Nouwen. As I began to escape the very lifestyle and belief system that had produced so much death, men like these began opening new doors for me, new ways to see God. It had begun producing life in me. It allowed me to reinterpret the Bible. As I had begun finding this new life in the Christian faith, I shared this with my friend. Recently, we had a conversation where we talked about how much change and growth we’ve experienced since we first met each other. We both shared how healing our friendship and these new influences had been on our lives.

This is why Theology Matters…. It has the power to heal people.

One of my favorite Biblical concepts is the self-emptying love that we with Jesus on the Cross. If Jesus is the model in which we are called to live by then we are called to empty of ourselves. As I get older, as I get more gentle, as my heart softens, I find Jesus more and more beautiful. And, my heart longs to give away that beauty. This is why the theology of others sometimes hurts me (like it did my little sister). They know very little of beauty. They know very little of love. They are more consumed with what they understand as Orthodoxy, than they are with actually being transformed by Jesus. Christianity becomes more of an ideological system and morality, than being remade in his image. I know this because I used to turn or burn, repent or perish people in High School. A theology that doesn’t move towards beauty and humility will always produce ugly and arrogant results. This what separates us. This is why we kill each other over theology. And, we feel justified because we believe God is on our side.

This is why theology matters…. It has the power to unite us or divide us.

How we understand theology will dictate how we live now. How we live life now, determines the quality of our life in the future. This is why theology matters.

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13 thoughts on “Why Theology Matters…..

  1. TheKaleo says:

    Great post – I think too many Christians underestimate the importance of theology. Aside from gaining a better understanding of the God that you love, it has so many other knock on effects like the ones you talked about. Thanks for the post!

  2. Will Cookson says:

    I agree theology matters hugely and that bad theology can cause devastation. Sorry your sister is having such an awful time – maybe she should just get out?

    I’m an Anglican vicar and I have a theory that the three main parties in the Church of England (Evangelical, liberal and Catholic) although they all overlap seem to tend towards one of the parties of 1st century Judaism that Jesus came across. Evangelicals tend towards being Pharisees, the Catholics towards the Essenes and the Liberals towards the Sadducees. I blogged on it if you want to read it http://wp.me/p177De-rf – my suspicion is that much of Christianity can often be categorised this way – which is a healthy way of checking what we are doing!!

  3. gary johnson says:

    how did she get assigned to something like this? how can she get out of it? and why would they want to have a summer intern that they did not know?

  4. I like that you compare our actions to our theology, declaring “How we understand theology will dictate how we live now.” This is very true. All to often, however, theology in general—whether good or bad, orthodox or heretical—is one of inaction. Most theologians and “wannabe” theologians I have encountered were more interested in talking about God in some nuanced way than the simplest service or ministry to the poor, hungry, or orphaned. This is not universally true, but theology has often remained in the libraries of the elites and in the ivory towers of their universities rather than being on the streets living out a righteous theology that mimics the person of Christ. Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. Jeff K. Clarke says:

    Thanks, Mike.

    It’s easy to see the vital importance of theology and how it impacts our journey. Whether we realize it or not, the quality of our Christian living is in large part determined by the quality of the theology we possess, and by how we apply these biblical teachings to the everyday fabric of our lives. Our walk is a direct reflection of our beliefs. And, if our belief system is flawed due to a faulty interpretation of Scripture, then our walk will suffer a similar fate. However, if we have carefully studied the biblical witness, paying attention to the rules and history of interpretation, we will acquire a solid foundation that will propel us into the richness of a faithful walk with Christ and others.

  6. The more I hear from those raised in the church about spiritual abuse and other forms of damage done to them the more I see that my 30 years as an atheist have actually been a blessing. For one all my education pre JC taught me that I do not and cannot know all. That the more I learn the more I realize how little I actually know. There is such a thing as idolatry of our ideas and understandings about God. When we thing we have it all figured out, God completely understood what we know and understand just isn’t God, can’t be. God defies our understanding. We get glimpses of who He is. I think that the Bible is inconsistent and contradictory on purpose, because no one understanding of God is sufficient. Our theologies need to recognize and embrace this tension/dissonance.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Brilliant thoughts Paul. In one sense I agree with you. I know many people who grew up in the Church, went to Christian college and ended up giving up on God all together because of the abuse and close-mindedness. Religion builds a narcissistic ego like no one’s business. At the same time and I’ll credit Richard Rohr for this, religion builds an identity for you to store God. The hope is, once you can build your identity and container, you have to move beyond that into what the container stores. Most religious people get the container but their cup is empty.

      • What I left out is that I was raised in church up until I was oh 11 or 12. It was mainline not evangelical. But we left before I could really get involved. Then came back 36 or 37 years later.

        I have seen youth pastors let go for encouraging kids to ask the tough questions, to challenge the faith in a box we hand our kids. I think that it is in this challenging and wrestling that one makes their faith their own. Parents get uncomfortable when their child comes home asking tough questions that challenge the parents’ faith. They don’t like it when their kids have their own faith if it looks different then theirs. And many times this is because the parents are still holding on to the faith they were handed as kids and never really made it their own.

        Yeah, I like that, “Most religious people get the container but their cup is empty.”

  7. jon philpott says:

    Great post. I think the problem with Theology is that it has a name that sounds complicated, when it could simply be as a desire to know more not only about Him, but Himself. I think the comment about inaction can be true, however, it seems to me that a true study of theology should bring us closer to him, to know his heart and to act accordingly.

    “That I may know him…”

  8. great post, loved the stories.

  9. Gavin P says:

    My Gatha on ‘Why Theology Matters…..’

    Where do you look
    In a mustard seed
    A frog on a lily pad
    Will you stone a child
    Turn the other cheek
    Will man tall me how
    Or will I let the wind
    Blow east and west
    Shell we lift a rock
    Split a piece of wood
    Will we find him there

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