New Post: Are we supposed to “let go and let God”?
New Post: Are we supposed to “let go and let God”?
New post: Why Do People Die?
New Post: On the Outside Looking In
New post on 412 Teens: If I was created for God’s own glory, does He even care about me?
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.
“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.
When I was in college, a local Christian bookstore had an inventory of books that they couldn’t sell due to water damage. And they gave those books to my college. Fortunately for me, the day they were giving them away was at a chapel that like no one showed up to. I could barely carry the stack of books I brought home that day. And among them was a thin pamphlet containing Jonathan Edward’s ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’.
I have heard this sermon referenced many times over the years, but this was the first time I had read it. It’s an exceptional treatise and I would add it to my list of books that I think every believer should read at some time in their lives.