Theology: Take it, or…

I have a friend who is a Calivinist.  He owns a Calvinist Devotional Bible, reads Pilgrim’s Progress and went to a Calvinist University.  He loves listening to John Piper talk about TULIP and just loves Calvinism.  But there is one thing that he loves more than Calvin, and that is arguing with heretics (this is the word he uses and can best be described, historically, as a person who doesn’t believe what I believe).

We started talking the other night about TULIP and how I am not sure that is how salvation works.  I told him that I am not sure about “Total Depravity” and a human’s inate impossibility to be sinless.  He said that was heretical.  He asked who some of my favorite authors are.  I told him I love N.T. Wright. 

“A very prolific heretic,” he called him.

We exchanged thoughts on salvation.  I told him that I was somewhat of an inclusivist, believing that God had a salvation plan for people who never heard about Jesus.  This was, “unChristian.”

We talked all night.  Finally we moved on to the topic of evanglism.  “Why bother doing evengelism if God has selected the people that are going to be saved anyway?”  I asked.

“God has chosen them, so we have to make sure we are finding them,” he said. 

“So, you have to go out and reach people with Jesus?”

“Of course.”

This is my problem with theology.  My friend and I spent hanf the night in dicussion about this system of theology that divides us.  For what?  We didn’t reach a common theology (though he tried).  We just argued.  But when you boil it all down we are to live our lives the same way, we just have different opinions on God.

Thomas Aquinas wrote that when thinking about God you are thinking about a great mystery.  Most of the ideas we have on God are based on assumptions of his character as reflected in a few instances in the Bible.  God, to us, is still a great mystery.  When thinking on God we are speculating on something largely unknowable to us.  That being the case, I get frustrated with people who believe and will only consider their view on the mystery to be the correct view. 

Perhaps, this is a post-modern issue, but I don’t think so.  I believe in some of the essential truths of Liberation Theology, but I do not outrightly reject ideas counter to it.  I am an inclusivist, believing that some people might be judged by a different standard when it comes time to go to heaven, but I would never label an exclusivist a heretic.

I was thinking about this as I was flipping through the Book of Job again the other night.  When Job is struck with his calamite his friends come to talk to him about what is happening to him.  In Job 4:7 Eliphaz says, “Who has ever died for being innocent?”  Bildad says in 8:4, 20 “Your kids sinned and God took them…God doesn’t punish good people.” Finally, Zophar says his peace on the issue by stating, “Witness men don’t know when they sin.  Maybe you’ve sinned and just don’t know.”

Job replies to all of these saying, “I am blameless, why is this happening to me?” 

In this situation, if you look closely enough, these men are arguing over theology.  Job’s friends say, “Our theology states that you had to do something wrong for this to happen.”  Job replies, “But I didn’t do anything wrong.”  His friends will have none of it.  So committed are they to their theology, that they are willing to call Job a liar rather than budge in the slightest from their beliefs.  When that happens, they stop being friends and comforters and instead become unloving condemners. 

When we as a church become that way, we start being less of a community of love and more a community of condemnation.  Rather than loving people, we reject people.  Rather than seeking people, we huddle together and hide from people.  Rather than celebrate the great diversity God has created, we create our on homogenous body.  Rather than talk to people with different world views, we attempt to sway them to our own.  Rather than enjoy all believers, we disfellowship the heretics, or rather, those who do not agree with us.

I think that ideas are good.  Having an idea about the nature of God is fine, fun, honorable and recommended.  If you think about God enough, there is no way you CAN’T have some ideas about him, his character, his will, his taste, his sense of humor.  These things come naturally to anyone who ponders on God.  But understand that those ideas are just that: ideas.  There is a different idea for every different person out there. 

As Thomas said, we are all just pondering on a mystery.  Please share your thoughts on the greatest mystery that ever existed, but don’t ruin the mystery for someone else.

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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: coleyoakum@gmail.com Flickr: flickr.com/photos/coleyoakum/

3 responses to “Theology: Take it, or…”

  1. Christian Servant says :

    Good post.

    I would agree; most arguments over theology are not beneficial and amount to fruitless discussions.

    The scripture holds truths which the Spirit of God testifies to. Ultimately we teach the truth to the best of our knowledge with the goal in mind of equipping our brethren for a greater work of service.

    In my experience of ‘evangelism’ and missions so far, the simplicity of Christ is far more effective than the complexity of theology.

    Keep It Simple, Stupid, seems to be a very effective model for me so far.

    *note– I’m not denouncing the importance for mature Christians to study deeper and deeper things, I’m just saying we should use discernment in who and when we share and teach these things to. They can become stumbling blocks for some people’s faith during certain parts of their lives, which we do not want.

    • coleyoakum says :

      I think that when we all get to heaven we are going to be shocked at the minimum sufficient level of knowledge. “Keep it simple, stupid” is a good guide. Rather than spending time trying to fit obscure passages together to create large theological systems we should focus on the straight forward statements of Jesus and God.

      “Love your neighbor.”

      “Love your enemies”

      “I will show you my faith by what I do.”

      “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

      “…act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

      Now, I agree, a mature child of God should move on to mature foods and should read the ideas of others on issues and topics. I think that thinking on Calvinism is good, there are some interesting things to be learned and considered there. I think that mature Christians should ponder suffering. God put passages in the Bible so that we can read them, take them at face value and ponder them deeper as well. But these ponderings should not divide us like they do.

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