DOES A STRONG FAITH WITH POOR THEOLOGY POSE DANGER?
- If you have a deep faith in God and a shallow theology, you'll be giving yourself to superficiality and nonsense, and you can do great damage to yourself and others (Haddon Robinson).
- Your life as a Christian should make non-believers question their disbelief in God (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
- Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter (Charles H. Spurgeon)
- We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness (Francis Chan)
- David risked his life in fighting Goliath because he had the perfect mix of faith, experience, and skill (John Stanko).
TEXT: Isaiah 7:9b ‘If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’
Strong faith with poor theology is not only dangerous to self and the community to which the Christian is meant to be light and salt, it also dishonors God, makes the cause of Christ irrelevant and disillusions believers. In addition, a strong faith with poor theology can wreck communities in times of politically divisive campaigns. The term theology literally means ‘thinking about God’. Jeff Jones, a pastor, observed that while going through Covid 19 pandemic, there were many genuine believers that believed that God would protect them from the virus, confident that ‘no weapon forged against you will prevail’ (Isaiah 54:17). The real danger is that what feel like faith could be just ingrained assumptions that one has learned from the culture. God has not promised to honor culturally constructed beliefs that are so refined that they look like His word and widely shared. Archbishop William Temple (1881- 1944) said, ‘If your concept of God is radically false, then the more devout you are, the worse it will be for you. You're opening yourself to be molded by something base. In terms of your practical life, you'd better be an atheist.’ Faith and the zeal for God can be a trap or opium of the masses as observed by Karl Marx if the knowledge one has of who God is, is faulty. The more deeply one believes, the more dangerous he/she is because of the inadequate theology. It is therefore important to know the difference between faith in God that originates from His word and finely constructed cultural beliefs.
SOURCE OF WHAT NOURISHES THE FAITH MATTERS
When the accepted view is that a good life is one of comfort, convenience, entertainment and good feelings, people avoid suffering because it is at odds with what is assumed to be a ‘blessed‘ life. Believers unknowingly are swayed by the prevailing mood that gives prominence to recognition, convenience and stardom. Unknowingly, the people meant to be seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, get addicted to jobs, accolades, limelight and focus on scriptures that rationalize their stand.
Culture or the bible – Culture are the learned and shared beliefs, assumptions and values that form the context in which people live, move and have their being. That means it is not possible to dislodge faith from everyday life. Culture and faith are said to be inextricably connected because culture is always an expression of the faith that informs it. If the word of God dwells in you richly (Colossians 3:16), then the culture will be an expression of the faith which informs it. If your culture is like that of the times of Isaiah at the time of his calling and the splendor of God was revealed to him: ‘Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5).
Power from God or from the culture – The understanding of the authority that guides communicative acts is very significant. At the very beginning of the church, the believers had to make a choice. ‘The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. . . .7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”. . . But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:1ff). The Sadducees, priests, temple captains, and others were custodians of the beliefs that formed the culture of the people. The conflict was caused by the fact that Peter, John and the other spirit filled believers were dependent on the power of God.
THEOLOGY IN USE IS REVEALED THROUGH ACTIONS
It is possible to claim to have Christ as Lord, claim it and not live it. In a culture where the thinking is that what one has is not enough, there is a tendency to have a few people have power and then control and manipulate others. In a culture where ascending to power is assumed to be success, relationships become strained and trust levels are low as people seek that which makes them be seen as ‘blessed’ or successful. Since Christian faith is based on love of the Lord and of one another, it becomes impractical in a culture of overdoing each other. Anything that makes one find identity outside Christ should be examined. To be so consumed by what one is doing can reduce the ability to listen to God while believing that one is in ‘ministry’. Excellent programs can easily replace the need to pray ‘may Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. Temporal blessing can blind people of being off the path that leads to righteousness. ‘Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’’ (Matthew 7:22-23). Apostle Paul was aware of this danger when he said, ‘Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.’(1 Corinthians 9 26-27). To avoid the danger of discovering that what one thought was right theology was actually leading to eternal lostness, it is important to examine the quality of theology that guides one's actions. The authority one follows impacts their every choice including prayers. That is true of individuals and of societies. The thin line between the source of power of the priest and one dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit is what informs one's theology. What makes the difference is whether one is willing to continually examine the beliefs that inform one of who God is. Read the scripture with the prayer. ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law’ (Psalm 119:18).
THE POSITIONING OF GOD DETERMINES THE TYPE OF THEOLOGY
God at the edge – It is possible to subconsciously hold a view of God as the Almighty, who is distanced from the people. This is likely to have been the root of the belief of sacred and secular divide , working for God and being a man/woman of God. This mindset locates spirituality in activities and programs of the institutional structures. People get preoccupied with religious activities that prophet Amos called noise. ‘Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps’ (Amos 5:23). Religion is a human construct that is unlikely to please God. People reach out and seek to appease God so that he can show them favor. Tithing 10 % frees people to go on with their preferred activities that take 90% of the income. When God is at the edge, His role unconsciously is to affirm the activities that people have designed. The activities and human achievements guide the people into what they view as blessings. The messages are meant to motivate people to desire to get more and more of what the society has designed. That inculcates greed, selfishness and false humility that strip people of their authenticity. People shrink so as to fit into the mold constructed from other people’s ideas of what is best. Shared comfort in ignorance of who God is make people attack and avoid anybody who suggests that there could be another way. In times of crisis, prayers reveal a sense of entitlement where God is good if people get their desired end. These view spirituality as a process of moving progressively out of and beyond the human realm into the God realm. Integrating faith with living becomes a concern in a culture where God is at the edge. Such a mindset is unlikely to ‘let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ (Amos 5:24).
God at the center– This view recognizes that there is no aspect of life that is outside the realm of God. It begins by the realization that it is not possible to figure God out. ‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). God, who is life and not limited by time, had purpose in creating human beings and is the one who gives life meaning. To have God at the centre begins with self-denial, taking up the cross and following Christ. It means one’s desired view is that of God. The God-at-the-centre view is not compartmentalized. Family, natural disasters, career, money, church and all that people do to make sense of life are informed by God. That is the essence of a mind renewed by the word of God in order to know God’s pleasing will (Romans 12:2).
The transformational mind knows that it is not possible to give God money; it is God who gives us money and everything else. God at the centre means there is no aspect of man’s existence that is outside the realm of God. To have God at the centre is what gives joy and meaning to life because of the realization that God’s sovereign rule extends over all of our lives. Abraham Kuyper (1837 – 1920), who was a pastor, a journalist, a newspaper founder, a professor, a university founder, a parliament member and a prime minister summarized God’s sphere with the quote; “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”. A Christian’s greatest desire is to be aligned to God’s will. Sin is any thought or/ and activity done that is not aligned to God‘s will. In such a culture faith is part of a believer that the natural outcome is to influence the culture where one is. Instead of tithing mint, rue and every herb(Matthew 23:23), one realizes that the earth and all in it is the Lords (Psalm 24:1) and so gives 100% to that which extend God’s kingdom. When God is at the centre one does not need affirmation from the symbols given by the culture because ‘you are accepted in the beloved’. (Ephesians 1:6).
YOUR THEOLOGY DETERMINES WHETHER YOU GO TO OR AWAY FROM GOD
In everyday decisions, one has to beware about beliefs about God that are faulty by digging deep and examining the source and reason for the beliefs. Think of the theology of the person that did not invest the one talent that he had been given. ‘“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’(Matthew 25:24-25) That led to the talent being taken away from him and having him cast away into everlasting darkness. Compare that to the prodigal son’s view of his father after choosing to be independent of his father, hitting a dead end after spending his inheritance in unworthy ways. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15: 17-20). Theology that is more informed by culture and less by the Lord has eternal implications in that it draws you to God or away from God.
When God is centred in the life of the people who claim His lordship, their faith influences their culture. A faith that does not become your new culture is a faith that is not fully received, not entirely thought through, not faithfully lived. A faith that is continually nourished by the word of God leaves a mark wherever the believer is. When God’s sovereignty is in doubt, one seeks affirmation from other sources. When God is at the centre, it means what one does every day is at the heart of His Presence. Doing things to be seen or because everybody does it that way is a reflection of the wrong view of God. It is tragic to be cheered and have great popularity among the people, while in the book of records you are not known. To settle on existing beliefs could be removing one’s capacity to examine and grasp that which makes us who God created us to be. God overlooks ignorance, but he doesn't overlook unbelief. Said another way, God overlooks ignorance, but he values trust and belief in him. Belief without strong theology can do great damage (Haddon Robinson). It is important to question everything you have been taught to believe, but that is the beginning of change and growth. How are you encouraging others to examine the beliefs about God?
‘Great faith with good theology can be a benefit and blessing to you and God's people’ (Haddon Robinson)