The Fear of Theological Controversy

No question about it, theology begets controversies. Parting a fragment of historical evidence such as the Council of Nicea is a clear case example of this. Arguments between parties are inevitable when theology is discussed. Our current state in America promotes tolerance and non-confrontational relationships marked by peace, religious pluralism and individual rights. The Bible teaches us to avoid a quarrelsome spirit and from being hypocritically judgemental, divisive, and contentious. Instead, we are told to bear the fruit of the Spirit, which includes kindness, gentleness, reverence, meekness, and patience.

Most people read those two teachings and conclude that the study theology must be avoided at all cost. I'm sure you've heard of the saying, "Never discuss religion and politics." The American banner of tolerance has elevated itself as the Golden Rule in conversations. Do not be alarmed, though, because America has faced this idea before. We are now all to exhausted from wars being triggered by theological controversy.

Anyone who reads the Bible can see Old Testament prophets, New Testament Apostles and Jesus himself almost could not avoid daylight without a controversy. The Apostle Paul told of his daily debates in the marketplace. R.C. Sproul, in his book Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, stated "We are called to avoid godless controversies. We are called to godly controversies." Sproul later concludes, "It is the immature student of theology who is the nitpicker. It is the half-trained theologian who is brittle and quarrelsome. The more one masters the study of theology, the more one is able to discern what issues are negotioable and tolerable and what issues demand that we contend with all our might.

Ironically, pop-American culture thrives and seeks to create controversies from thin air. Notice the difference, though, in the type of controversy sought: unsubstantiated opinions motivated to put one person down so that another may gain popular likeness. The godly disputes inevitable in Christianity mentioned earlier concern matters of Truth. I admit, some of historical theological debates included political power and demand for social approval. But regardless of these few instances, the axiom and goal for disagreements were to seperate the wheat from the chaff, to discern falsehood from true biblical teachings. The focus was grounded in the Scripture, not the people and their social status. In other words, the objective claims could be reasonably debated while not debunking the character of subjective matters, such as the people.

Before a person's soul can be passionate for the living God, the mind of that person must be informed about the character and will of God (theology). The heart cannot act upon that which does not first exist in the mind. Here is where I've heard objections such as, "What about those who seem to have grasped a great understanding of theology and yet still live blatantly sinful lives without evidence of change?" To explain the reasoning behind this case, the distinction between necessary conditions and sufficient conditions. R.C. Sproul writes:

"An intellectual understanding of doctrine is a necessary condition for spiritual growth. It is not, however, a sufficient condition for such growth. A necessary condition is a condition that must be present for a desired result to happen. Without it, the result will not be forthcoming. For example, oxygen is a necessary condition for fire. However, the mere presence of oxygen is not enough to guarantee that a fire will occur. That is fortunate for us, since the world would be in flames if oxygen automatically produced fire. Oxygen is therefore necessary for fire, but in itself is not sufficient or enough to make a fire. As oxygen is necessary but not sufficient for a fire to ignite, so doctrine is necessary but not sufficient to light a fire in our hearts. Without the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the mere presence of doctrine, even sound doctrine, will leave us cold."
God commands us in Scripture to be diligent in our study of Him and his Word. Theology comes from two Greek words that when combined mean "the study of God." Apostle Paul says, "put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11) that we might grow in our goal of Christian understanding. The reason Paul exhorts us to follow these words is not to become arrogant in our knowledge, but that we might grow in grace. The study of theology, in principle and application, yields mature understanding that produces the building blocks for mature living.

Sproul ends his discourse with these remarks, " is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology. In this sense, theology must never be viewed as an abstract science. It is a matter of life and death, even eternal life and eternal death." What you believe about God matters. It shapes your worldview and cashes out in your daily actions and decisions.

Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi


Popular posts from this blog

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

A Botched Abortion Shows the Lies of Pro-Choice Proponents

Jewish writings and a change in the Temple at the time of the Death of Jesus

Tillich, part 2: What does it mean to say "God is Being Itself?"

The Folded Napkin Legend