Posts Tagged 'beliefs'

Trusting Your Theology


Some things are just hard to explain and even harder to understand. Try understanding any – and I mean any – government form. Even worse than trying to understand the form itself is trying to grasp the reason why you have to fill the darn thing in the first place. Sometimes understanding assembly instructions for a piece of furniture requires a degree in engineering. And who can fathom recipes? “Fold in.” Who knows what that means? Or what about road signs? I’m sure I am the only driver in my neck of the woods who knows how a four-way (all-way) stop works.

Christian theology can be hard to understand, too. And hard to explain. Take, for example, the wonderful and well-known piece of theology no Christian can live without knowing: the hypostatic union. If you are a Christian, you know full well about the hypostatic union. You hear about it in church every Sunday. What, exactly, is the hypostatic union? It’s the doctrine that tells us Jesus Christ is One Person with two separate and distinct natures. All Christians know about the hypostatic union even if they don’t its name. We all know Jesus is “God in the flesh.” That He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Two natures. One Man. The hypostatic union. So, explain it to me. How is the hypostatic union possible? The answer most Christians would give is: “Nobody can explain the hypostatic union beyond a simple definition. It takes faith.”

Yes, faith. The last refuge for people who are too lazy to wrestle with Scripture; to try to understand and make sense of what they believe. Don’t misunderstand, we can’t all be theologians and Bible scholars. But how in the world can a Christian fulfill the Great Commission unless they know what they believe and know how to explain it?

Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. (2 Timothy 2:15 TLB)

But as for you, speak up for the right living that goes along with true Christianity. (Titus 2:1 TLB)

There may well be mysteries or paradoxes in the Christian faith. There will be elements of our faith we may never fully understand until we see Jesus face-to-face.

Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is. (1 John 3:2 TLB)

That’s a fact. But it isn’t an excuse. Let’s consider some basic, fundamental Christian theology you may believe but have difficulty explaining.

What is theology, exactly?

Our English word “theology” comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning “God,” and logos, meaning “word” or “expression” or “study of.” Before we can tell anybody about God, we need to think right things about God. Thinking rightly about God is as simple as knowing what the Bible has to say about Him because the Bible is God’s revelation to man about Himself.

Christians are funny people. We become experts in the things we are interested in. Movies, TV shows, Hollywood gossip, baseball, politics, you name it, we can talk about it. But the truth is, it really doesn’t matter what we think about those things. It matters greatly what we think about God.

Why is theology so important?

The answer to this question is one word; a name actually: Jesus. It’s His fault that theology is so important. Here’s why:

Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37 – 39 TLB)

Theology makes this possible. It feeds our minds, enabling our hearts and souls to fulfill the second greatest commandment. And it goes without saying that when we have a right understanding of God, we will understand ourselves.

Ignorance is never bliss

Some people think theology is only important for the pastor to know about. Others think theology is just too divisive – that it causes arguments and splits in churches. They think it would just be better for everyone concerned if we kept quiet about theology. But that’s wrongheaded thinking! Theology is what the Church of Jesus Christ is built on! Without theology – good theology – there would be no Church. Paul has an interesting way of describing people who don’t know theology: he calls them immature. And immature Christians are most certainly a danger to themselves and could be a danger to others!

Why is it that he gives us these special abilities to do certain things best? It is that God’s people will be equipped to do better work for him, building up the Church, the body of Christ, to a position of strength and maturity; until finally we all believe alike about our salvation and about our Savior, God’s Son, and all become full-grown in the Lord—yes, to the point of being filled full with Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. (Ephesians 4:12 – 14 TLB)

You just can’t trust a Christian who doesn’t know what he believes. And forget about the confused saint trying to witness to the lost! That really would be the blind leading the blind. Ignorant, confused Christians are the type of people who are up one day and down the next. They are the ones with enough faith to move a mountain on Monday, but by Wednesday they aren’t sure if God even exists. James has an interesting way of describing this kind of Christian:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5 – 8 NKJV)

Who needs it?

I guess the only person who doesn’t need to know some sound, basic theology is a double-minded man. But for the rest of us, we need to know some. Truth be told, everybody has a theology. Everybody, even the atheist, has beliefs about the nature of reality, morality, ethics, and so on. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that not all theologies are good or correct. With so many different ideas floating around, some must be wrong.

The Christian has an obligation to know for certain that his theology is the right theology. In our secular, postmodern, PC culture, all theologies have merit, they say. One man’s belief is just as valid as the other’s, they say. But is that the case? Isn’t there an “ultimate theology” above all others? Every religion would say that their theology is the correct one. So how do we know ours is?

For the Christian, it all goes back to the Bible. Our theology is objective; it is not based on what we think or feel at the moment. Our beliefs are rooted in a Book centuries old; beliefs that have not changed since they were written down and have persisted in cultures and societies all over the world. Other “holy books” and teachings have come and gone; have changed to keep up with the times; have been modified, added to and edited to suit the culture and societal norms of the day. Only the Bible has remained unchanged; it’s truths influencing the world around it, not influenced by the world around it.

As Christians, we may be absolutely confident that our theology is the right theology because God has revealed Himself to His people in a meaningful way.

But we know about these things because God has sent his Spirit to tell us, and his Spirit searches out and shows us all of God’s deepest secrets. (1 Corinthians 2:10 TLB)

This is not an insignificant statement Paul is making here. Our faith is based on the objective realities that each one of us has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the mind of God, and that we are created in the image of God, which means we have the ability to think and reason just like He does. We can actually tap into the mind of God through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It is that same spirit that opens up our eyes to the teachings of the Scriptures.

But the man who isn’t a Christian can’t understand and can’t accept these thoughts from God, which the Holy Spirit teaches us. They sound foolish to him because only those who have the Holy Spirit within them can understand what the Holy Spirit means. Others just can’t take it in. But the spiritual man has insight into everything, and that bothers and baffles the man of the world, who can’t understand him at all. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15 TLB)

Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. (Psalm 119:18 TLB)

If these things are true, as Christians believe them to be, then it makes sense that our beliefs are the correct beliefs and that only Christians are teaching objective truths. Every human being gets their sense of right and wrong; their sense of morality and ethics, from some place or someone. Parents, teachers, peers, and even from within oneself come ideas that contribute to one’s theology. As worthy as those contributions may be, they aren’t always trustworthy or dependable because they are not objective but subjective. That is, ideas that come from the mind of another are subjective; they are subject to feelings, change, debate, modification, and so on. The ideas that come from the Bible, revealed to and illumined in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit, are objective because they are the same for all believers, of all cultures and races, and for all time. So what is wrong in America is also wrong in Singapore. What is considered righteous behavior in New Guinea is righteous behavior in Great Britain. The theology of the Bible works for everybody, everywhere, every time.

Are we always right?

Given that Christians possess the ultimate truth and believe the correct theology, are we always right? I wish that were the case. Unfortunately, our temperaments, personalities and sinful natures get in the way sometimes. But just because from time to time a believer behaves in a way that demeans Biblical theology, that doesn’t mean what he believes is wrong. It means that he is flawed human being. Our theology may be perfect, but we are not. That’s why when we share our faith – our theology – with others, our focus needs to be on God, not on us. John. R.W. Stott wrote:

Evangelical Christianity is theological in its character, biblical in its substance, and fundamental in its emphasis.

We would do well to remember those words! When we are sharing our faith, it really isn’t our faith we are sharing, it’s theology given to us by God through His Holy Spirit and His Word. Sound, reliable, consistent theology that springs from those sources should embolden all believers and fill them with reassurance, hope, and confidence. Why? Because what they believe didn’t originate with any man, but with God.

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