Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How Incurable God-Lovers Should Discuss Theology, Part 1 By Steve Lehrer

An incurable God-lover is that rare and supernaturally changed person we call a Christian. He is someone whom God called out of the darkness of unbelief and self-centeredness into the light of knowing God and living for Him. An incurable God-lover has come to understand that he has rebelled against the God of heaven and earth and that he deserves God’s unending wrath. He recognizes that when he sins against God, it is not simply breaking a rule in God’s book, but it is a personal offense against God Himself. He understands “in his bones” that sin grieves God. He is not only remorseful over sin, but he desires never to do it again. An incurable God-lover lives and breathes grace. This person feasts on the fact that God showered His love on an undeserving sinner and rebel. He delights in the truth that Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God in his place. When he commits a sin, this grace of God is that which causes him to repent of his sin and redouble his efforts to live for Christ. An incurable God-lover has the Spirit of God in his life pushing him on to continue to love God more than sin until he dies.

How to Go About Discussing Theology

Over the years we at In-Depth Studies have been involved in more than our fair share of controversial theological discussion and we have received more than our fair share of black eyes and uncharitable responses. I am not writing this to tell you how awful those who disagree with me have behaved. My involvement in discussing theology has brought to light something far more disturbing than that. I have perceived my own motives for discussing theology turning more and more sinful as I have received both negative and positive responses to my writing and speaking. I find myself wanting to belittle my opponents rather than putting their interests above my own. In addition, I find that I desire people’s praise far too much. In short, I find myself discussing theology for the wrong reasons and, at times, in the wrong manner. So this leads to the question: How should incurable God-lovers discuss theology?
Theology is not a hobby or a game. It is not about getting every point right, although it is important to have correct theology. Theology is about knowing God through the Scriptures. The stakes are high because theology not only affects how we live now, but the theology we embrace is directly related to where we spend eternity. Theology is the most important field of study that exists because God is the most important person that exists. When someone has wrong theology they not only dishonor God by misrepresenting Him, but their lack of understanding can lead other people astray. In short, wrong theology can smear God’s good name and can hurt His people. I am not for blind ecumenicalism in which you are limited to small talk about sports because you disagree violently about everything else. I believe it is necessary to divide over important theological issues and to create different local church bodies that clearly teach and live out what they believe Scripture says. But neither am I for churches that are hermetically sealed off so that we have no exposure to those who differ from us. I believe it is of vital importance that we talk about, laugh, discuss, and wrestle through our differing theologies. If you are a Preterist, a Covenant Theologian, a Premillenialist, a Pentecostal, a Charismatic, an Arminian, or a Calvinist, you should strive to be talking with those who differ with you. But you should also strive to be talking with those who differ with you in a way that honors God and displays His wonderful grace and mercy.
It seems as if many times the theology most people embrace is wrong. I say this not because their stated theology always differs from mine, but rather because the way they go about discussing this most important of subjects reveals their unstated theology. The normal fare in theological dialogue can range from an unwillingness to listen to the point of view of others, to name calling and harshness, and sadly, arrogance. It is not at all unusual that our actions and our stated theology can be in conflict because of the way we discuss theology. But if this happens,God is being dishonored by the manner in which we try to defend His truth. The goal is that ourstated theology and our actions so harmonize that we give evidence that what we understand about God, we actually believe! As basic as this may sound, a great need in Christian circles is that we actually live out our theology when we are speaking about the things of God with other people. This will revolutionize the way we discuss theology with those with whom we disagree and even the way we divide from others.
Steve Lehrer is the director of biblical counseling at In-Depth Studies.

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