Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Need For Theology

Allow me to share my reading for this evening with you:

The Need for Theology

But is there really a need for theology? If I love Jesus, is that not sufficient? Indeed, theology seems to have certain disadvantages. It complicates the Christian message, making it confusing and difficult for the lay person to understand. It thus seems to hinder, rather than help, the communication of the Christian truth. Does not theology divide rather than unite the church, the body of Christ? Note the number of denominational divisions that have taken place because of a difference of understanding and belief in some minute areas. Is theology, then, really desirable, and is it helpful? Several considerations suggest that the answer to this question is yes.

1. Theology is important because correct doctrinal beliefs are essential to the relationship between the believer and God. One of these beliefs deals with God’s existence and character. The writer to the Hebrews, in describing those who, like Abel and Enoch, pleased God, stated: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (11:6). The author does not mean that one who attempts to approach God may be rejected because of lack of such a faith in him, but that one would not even attempt to approach God without this belief.

Belief in the deity of Jesus Christ also seems essential to the relationship. After Jesus had asked his disciples what people thought of him, he also asked, "Who do you say I am?" Peter’s response, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," met with Jesus’ resounding approval (Matt. 16:13–19). It is not sufficient to have a warm, positive, affirming feeling toward Jesus. One must have correct understanding and belief. Similarly, Jesus’ humanity is important. First John was written to combat the teachings of some who said that Jesus had not really become human. These "docetists" maintained that Jesus’ humanity was merely an appearance. John pointed out the importance of belief in the humanity of Jesus when he wrote: "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God" (1 John 4:2–3). Finally, in Romans 10:9–10, Paul ties belief in Christ’s resurrection (both a historical event and a doctrine) directly into the salvation experience: "If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." These are but a few examples of the importance of correct belief. Theology, which concerns itself with defining and establishing correct belief, is consequently important.

2. Theology is necessary because truth and experience are related. While some would deny or at least question this connection, in the long run the truth will affect our experience. A person who falls from the tenth story of a building may shout while passing each window on the way down, "I’m still doing fine," and may mean it, but eventually the facts of the matter will catch up with the person’s experience. We may continue to live on happily for hours and even days after a close loved one has, unknown to us, passed away, but again the truth will come with crushing effect on our experience. Since the meaning and truth of the Christian faith will eventually have ultimate bearing on our experience, we must come to grips with them.

3. Theology is needful because of the large number of alternatives and challenges abroad at the present time. Secular alternatives abound, including the humanism that makes the human being the highest object of value, and the scientific method that seeks truth without recourse to revelation from a divine being. Other religions now compete with Christianity, even in once supposedly secure Western civilization. Not merely automobiles, electronic devices, and cameras are exported to the United States from the East. Eastern religion is now also challenging the once virtually exclusive domain of Christianity. Islam is growing rapidly in the United States, especially among African American males.32 Numerous quasi-religions also make their appeal. Countless psychological self-help systems are advocated. Cults are not restricted to the big-name varieties (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism). Numerous groups, some of which practice virtual brainwashing and mind control, now attract individuals who desire an alternative to conventional Christianity. Finally, many varieties of teaching, some mutually contradictory, exist within Christianity.

The solution to the confusion is not merely to determine which are false views and attempt to refute them. Bank employees learn to detect counterfeit money not by studying false bills, but by examining numerous samples of genuine money. They look at it, feel it, scrutinize it in every way. Then, when finally given bogus bills, they immediately recognize the difference. Similarly, correctly understanding the doctrinal teachings of Christianity is the solution to the confusion created by the myriad of claimants to belief. [1]

32 Russell Chandler, Racing Toward 2001: The Forces Shaping America’s Religious Future (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, and San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992), pp. 183–85.
[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1998), 29-31.

No comments:

Post a Comment