theology

Why Study Theology

I. Am no master at the quick reaction. I am however excellent at thinking over a scenario weeks later and coming to a conclusion of what would have been a good answer to a question.

How my work/life scenario is right now there are conversations constantly about theology. I work in a secular office, but virtually everyone is a believer, and many are elders and pastors. Countless times I’ve walked into my office and been stopped with “I was reading in the old testament today…” I go from this to discussing the worldview and character development in Krampus with the midget, to answering a theology question for 412teens.

So when I was at a party shortly before Christmas and I heard quite frustrated. This person was upset with their theology class and posed this question: “Why do we study theology?” I had come to respect this person so I pushed past my initial reaction (“Why do we breath?) and listened more. This person was frustrated because why spend all this time diving into pretrib/posttrib, Calvinism, limited atonement, free will vs predestination,etc, when there are people who don’t know the love of Christ *at all*. Shouldn’t we be focusing on people and not arguments that have literally been made for thousands of years?

He has a point.

This last year I’ve been doing a lot of reading outside of my niche of faith tradition and I see two extremes of the argument. There is the one side (which I would say falls under “seeker-sensitive”) which entirely focuses on boiling down the Gospel to it’s bare bones and blasting it out to as many people as possible. This side will reach people that would never step foot in a traditional church, but they can fall short when people do want to grow and learn in their faith. And there’s the other side, who will spend a month of Sundays on the first word in Romans. This can create a culture that is so focused on learning more and more that they can forget there is a world out there who has not even heard the good news. While they’re parsing Greek in Sunday school, there are those who are wondering if there is any hope at all.

So what do we do? It seems to be you can either be in a church community who is ready to reach everyone, even those who don’t quite fit in, in their community OR you can be in a church that wants to dig deep into Scriptures and find all the treasure that is there.

I repeat myself, so what do we do? I’m still working on figuring out that answer. In my life this has visualized in attending a community focused church while listening to podcasts of more traditional churches/self study. To swing back around to the original question: why study theology when there are lives who haven’t heard the good news? My answer is if we are basing our hope and salvation on something shouldn’t we learn as much as humanly possible about it? In Acts (17:11) the Bereans are praised for listening to teaching and then going back and making sure what Paul is teaching them is correct. I love this because they are praised for researching, and not just expected to receive teaching passively.

Study, learn, understand Scripture, but we cannot become so insulated that we forget to share what we know or that we forget at one time we were also searching for the truth.

Of God

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I am going to take this space to disagree with my pastor. it’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with him, but this time I want to say something. Sunday he finished his sermon with this:

“You may be asking yourself is God safe? I’m here to tell you yes, God is safe!”

I understand the purpose behind that statement. It is an angry world, people are angry at God, or fear God is angry with them, or just want to know what this God thing is. Will they get hurt? Is it worth it? Why should they come back next week? If they enter these doors will that gnawing emptiness be filled? Will they be lied to? Will they be accepted? Will their kids be accepted? I understand the desire to wrap it all up and say ‘it’s safe here, come on in.” And leave it at that. But that is selling God short. And that is selling a God that is not accurate.

When we preach a God that is incomplete we are essentially saying that the God of the Bible, the “Lion of Judah” is too much to swallow, so we need to give a little bite sized version that people can handle.

Part of what makes Narnia so powerful is here is a children’s book with no watering down of the power of God. You cannot read those books without getting a sense of the deep power of Aslan and also the deep love. For something to be good, it does not need to be safe. It does not need to be controllable.

God is trustworthy. God is a holy fire that cannot stand evil and He is also a God who chooses to adopt us as children. He will not break His promises and He values us down to the number of hairs on our head. God is completely outside of our control, we cannot manipulate Him. Which is both terrifying and comforting, but most of the time comforting.

Instead of saying God is safe, tell about how God is good. He values you. And I think that’s where the desire for hearing “is it safe” comes from. Really what people are asking is “will I be valued?” And yes, you have value woven into your core and that is what God sees. That is what God died for and bore our punishment. Because He values you.

Don’t settle for a God who is safe.

God’s love

I was working on a post for 412teens on God’s love and came across this verse:

“But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I remember the first time the full weight of that verse hit me. I was at school, I don’t remember which class, what year, I do have a clear visual memory of seeing it on the page. How mind blowing is this little statement? How fully and completely unearned is that love? I hope this fact never loses it’s amazingness to me. So much of culture tells us to earn love, to be a little more a little better….but God’s love isn’t dependent on you being more. You are enough. Each person comes to Christ as in need of a savior as the next.

 

A Couple Links

Instead of me writing today, I’d like to direct your attention to these two excellent articles:

Depression & Christianity

If you were near the internet last week, you probably saw at least a handful of blog entries on Robin William’s death. Some of these were tasteful, some were not. Midget’s post is excellent and I highly suggest reading it.

Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed

When the I Kissed Dating Goodbye first became a big deal, I knew something about the whole thing bugged me, besides that with courting (as stated in conservative groups I’ve been around) did not allow for a ‘right’ way for my friends who didn’t have a dad in the picture. The author of this article gets a bit sarcastic, and I do not agree with his statement that ‘there is someone for everyone’. But it is still the best article I have read on the topic.

End Times

I was listening to a sermon on the end times, which is on my list of least favorite topics. But, it was next in my podcast queue, so I played it while I worked anyway.

The reason I dislike this topic is it is so divisive on something that the details we cannot know exactly the correct interpretation. There is alot we can know and interpret and be aware of what will happen, but the Bible is incredibly clear that we cannot when Christ will return. (See Matthew 24:36)

And isn’t that the most important part? That Christ will return? All the other details, are just that- details. Christ will return, we won’t see it coming, and no one but the Father knows the date.

Which imagine if we actually, truly, knew the time and date when Christ would return. Let’s say it was the last verse in Revelation, with the day and time clearly stated that we could count down to, how would we live differently? And would all our focus be on that day, or on the Savior who was coming? Speaking for myself, I would fixate on the day, especially if it was in my lifetime. I would be calculating ‘well there’s time’ or ‘why bother with something, times almost up’.

Fear is tricky, horrible enemy. And often times when I see an obsession over ‘well, this has happened in the World, means the end times are here!’ it is born from fear. And if not born from fear, fear takes hold. Constantly watching the news, seeing what will happen, trying to piece together how much time is left.

I think we should be careful to not land hard on a ‘side’ in the end times debate when we cannot undeniably know if it is correct. And especially should not use the study of the end times as a reason to live in fear, or tear down fellow believers who have come to a different conclusion about details.

For King and Country- “The Proof of Your Love”

Weird music video, I don’t think I’ll ever ‘get’ music videos…but have been really liking this song recently.

I’ve been trying for about a week to pull together some thoughts on love. I’ve started writing twice on the topic, both times to scratch out what I’ve written. I don’t intend to write on love today, but I’ll start my thoughts for future days with this song.

Beliefs in Writing

I have no stomach for debate. I don’t have the energy or type of personality to get into an escalated ‘conversation’ that inevitablity devolves into at least one party trying to trick the other party into looking dumb. Or just raising their voice and sometimes to add flavor, swearing, because obviously whoever talks the loudest or uses the lowest kind of language must be right.

Ahem, I realize not all debates end up like that, but generally, that is not the kind of potential stress I want to add to my day.

There is one lady though, who I genuinely enjoy and appreciate debating with. She challenges me to explain what I mean, and listens to what I have to say and makes it very clear she isn’t just waiting for her turn to shoot me down. She firmly defends her stance from a point of *why* she believes what she believes, not a ‘you are stupid because…’ Whenever I leave after having a conversation with her I feel like I’ve learned something, grown in my understanding of an issue, and generally just have my day made.

A few months ago she challenged me with this question: “All that we do should be to bring glory to God and advance His kingdom. How do you justify writing secular fiction?”

I had an answer, as it was a question (in a different form) I had struggled through and came to a conclusion when it was clear I would finish writing Worlds Collide. I was knee deep in Bible College and deeply convicted that I was not qualified to write a faith system that involved another world and our own. Christ came to save sinners in *our* world, how would you take a fictional setting that takes place in both our world and another planet and place the gospel in it without being disrespectful? I chose for that storyline that I would not address the issue at all.

This topic of being a believer and an artist who is not creating traditional Christian art is one I’ve been thinking over alot. Some have convictions that if you are a believer, your work of fiction should have a clear gospel presentation. And if that is your conviction- write your story that way and make it the best story you can. Unfortunately, so often those stories have the gospel jammed in to make it appear as an after thought and the entire structure and quality of the overall story shatters around it. Who are you going to reach with a shattered story? The only people who will read those stories and take it serious are other believers. AKA- ‘preaching to the choir.’

I came across this quote that stunned me in it’s simplicity and I believe really gets this point across:

“God didn’t print Bible verses on flower petals. The beauty of those petals points to God without an explicit declaration of the plan of salvation. So it is with the art that Christians make. The beauty their art embodies points to God, even if John 3:16 isn’t written on the canvas.” Source

What makes One Realm Beyond exceptional is Donita K Paul’s use of bringing her faith and belief and the church into her writing, without spelling it out for the reader. I am almost finished reading Charity Bishop’s Thornwicke and she also does an amazing job of showing faith without a step by step gospel presentation.

To finish up, I think the Christian artist/writer should have their faith and belief shine through their work. Write the best story you can write, paint the best picture you can. Give God glory by being the best artist you can be.