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.

An Open Letter to the Local Church

Let me take a moment to thank you. You have such a hard job. No matter how hard you try, someone will disapprove. Unfortunately, it is also likely that at some point in time, someone will get hurt. You will often be made out to be the bad guy- whether deserved or not. I can only imagine the stress of wanting to be ‘relevant’- and accused of being disrespectful. Of being ‘traditional’- and accused of being out of touch. Whether or not to play hymns or modern worship songs- and having someone saying you are doing worship wrong whichever you decide on. And tithing, my metaphorical hat goes off to you on this one. Knowing that whether or not you pay the rent/mortgage on the church building, or whether you can pay for your kids health insurance, is dependent on if your congregation gives enough. The faith that requires, I will fully admit, that would be an astronomical challenge for me. And then deciding whether you pass the plate or have a discreet box in the back? Having to make those kind of decisions stresses me out just thinking of it.

So thank you. Thank you for your hard work and the place you fulfill in our lives and communities.

If I may be so bold, the point of this letter is to express some observations and concerns that have been building in my heart these last few years. I know that there many voices on the internet expressing their thoughts on how the church should change and become ‘relevant’….or return to their ‘roots’, but I hope to offer something to the conversation and therefore ask for a few more minutes of your time.

First, dear church, for those of us who grew up in you, you were the backbone of our lives. Please let us grow up. See us as adults. I can imagine how hard that would be when you watched us in nursery,but please step back and see us as the adults we are today- not the child of what felt like yesterday. Many of us don’t want to leave, this is our home, but if we’re only seen as extensions of our parents, how can we grow? And adulthood is not defined by marriage, please see us singles as adults as well. We are not less adults then our married peers, just God has our lives on a different timeline.

Next, train us, teach us, and if the time comes, let us leave. The church is there to train up believers, and provide a haven. Train us up to be equipped to know truth from false teaching, in order that if the day comes that we feel led to go to a different church (or move away and need to), you have done all you can to help us be discerning believers. Don’t automatically assume that if we aren’t behind your doors that we’ve fallen away from the truth. Lives change, people move, please don’t foster a fear that ‘you’ are the only ‘right’ church. Train us to rest and rely on Christ alone, not you.

On the other hand of the above comment, if you are a church who has built themselves up on ‘being open to everyone! bring your friends who wouldn’t step foot in a church!’, please don’t shluff to the side those of who us who don’t have ‘a history’. There are those of us who have not gone through ‘wild child’ phases, and we want to belong too. When you are ‘having a seat at the table for everyone’- remember us. Everyone who has a pulse has had trials and struggles, some just aren’t as obvious.

I won’t dwell long on this point, because I believe it’s been covered enough, but let us be unique. Odd. Casual. Conservative. Bright and colorful. Let us be us. We’re all shapes and sizes and colors and with tattoos or piercings, or long floral skirts and long hair, we’re all different, and we want to learn more about the God who loves us. Please show His love when we enter into your sanctuary, regardless of whether or not we ‘match’ those around us.

Thank you

The Local Church

Did you know if your hands get cold at the office they turn red? I thought they’d turn blue, but no, it looks like a small child attacked my knuckles with a sharpy. Only on my right hand, my left hand apparently is living in a different climate because it is fine.
I asked the midget what I should write on today, because a couple hours ago, when I couldn’t write, I had a bunch of great ideas! …And then I walked down the hall and got distracted. (There wasn’t even anything shiny!)
She said to write on ‘stop being so hard on the church’.
It is very popular to list how terrible ‘the church’ is. How it is full of hypocrites with plastic smiles, and how church culture has replaced Scripture in importance. It’s an easy target, because there is truth. There are churches who focus more on being relevant with today’s society then they do with standing on the Word of God. And there are people who put on a show when they go to church and make sure they only show a squeaky clean image.
But what I fear often gets forgotten in these rants is this: The church is made of sinners. Christ came to die for sinners. If Christ loved those (you) sinners so much to die for, why is it unforgivable that sinners are in the church? Let me pause for a moment: the following is not an argument for you to stay in a church where you feel you do not belong. There are times where it is perfectly acceptable to move on. That said, that is not what I want to focus on.
The church is not perfect. And frankly, if it says it is, and everyone says they are inside— I think it’s time to find a new church. But neither are you. (This is not an excuse to be a jerk to people who are trying their best to be their best– you can tell the difference between someone striving and someone putting on a show) The purpose of going to church on Sunday is to grow in your understanding of God’s word, and to have an opportunity for ‘iron sharpening iron’ (Proverbs 27:17). Ideally, it is to be a save haven for you to go to. Your local church has alot to live up to.
In my opinion, why so many people are angry and hurt by the church is they have rested their faith and security in the church instead of Christ. I have seen church splits, and church discipline of people who I looked up to, it is devastating. Heartbreaking. And makes you want to reject ever trusting another human being (or believer) again. But going back to people are sinners. I am a sinner. My pastor is a sinner. Which is why our faith needs to rest in Christ and Scripture alone.
In conclusion, work to build up your local church, not tear it down. Rest your faith in Christ, and know that He will not fail you.