God Loves You, "Bad" Theology And All
Within the past couple of years, there seems to have been this new direction that many people and ministries have taken when it comes to theology and doctrine. What used to seem like a conversation held by and exclusive to men only, has begun to find its place in the conversations and interests of so many women. More than the world probably thought was possible.
Due to there being such a high stress on having a proper theology of God, knowing your Bible in context and being aware of the many ways in which The Bible is being handled wrongly, there is something I don’t want us to miss. All of these things are important and The Bible puts a high value on them, for knowing God rightly, leads to the health of Believers and local churches.
However, The Bible also shows us that while we were yet still sinners that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6) In Him doing so, this points to a greater implication when it comes to God’s love remaining constant and fixed, despite our faults.
Our theology of God will never be perfect. While we are journeying through books, commentaries and even Scripture, we must not forget that. God doesn’t call us to have a “good” theology of Him so that He will love us more. He calls us to be faithful to His Word and how we handle it, while knowing and trusting that His love for us doesn’t waver based off of how well we “know” Him.
DON’T DESPISE SMALL BEGINNINGS
Can I be honest?
When I first discovered how “bad” my theology was, I went into a depression. I cried and read and hid and read and prayed and wrestled and cried some more. I couldn’t believe that I really didn’t know God like I thought I did.
Growing up in church, I had learned so much about God. Some of it was right and a lot of it was wrong. The wrongness of my theology is what broke me. Here I was, teaching at conferences, leading Bible studies on my college campus and sharing posts on social media, yet I didn’t truly know Him. Man did this break me. It made me realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Oh how God used this realization to both humble me and to also increase my hunger and desire for His Word. This led to a deep pursuit of daily reading and studying, sifting through articles and listening to teachings, all the while feeling inadequate and embarrassed at my state.
A lot of people didn’t see this six month period of my life. They saw changes but they did not see the nights I stayed up until three in the morning reading. They did not see the days I could barely get out of the bed because I was so lost and confused. They did not see the amount of papers I printed out at my old job (thanks by the way haha) to compile in my binder of resources to study. The truth is, most people won’t get a deep look into the rough trenches, but God is there and He doesn’t want you to despise those small beginnings. Those times will lay the foundation of humility and Christ as the cornerstone of your pursuit.
THEOLOGY IN THE HANDS OF SINNERS
The Bible isn’t afraid to show us what the knowledge of God can accomplish in the hands of sinners. There are great moments of victory when our theology is God-honoring. There are also great moments of shame when our sinful hearts cause our theology to be elevated above loving our neighbors and seeking to honor God with what we know.
Take a look at Facebook groups, debates in comments sections, separation of genuine Believers based off of preferences and combativeness masked under the guise of “defending truth”. These things are heart-breaking to God because pure theology is supposed to unite us together and not tear us apart. This isn’t though, to be ignorant to the fact that truth will naturally cause divisions where the focus is personal motivations and ideals, versus what God has communicated to us in Scripture.
No one person walking this Earth has the monopoly on theology. God’s Word is the sole, sure and sufficient source of where good theology is birthed and bad theology is shed. How? Because it points its readers to The One who set this whole thang up. Why? Because God’s goal in giving us His Word wasn’t so that we could one up each other in conversations, but so that we could stir one another up in sanctification, love and good works. Theology proper in the hands of sinners saved by grace, should cause us to be some of the most humble and helpful people in the world. Because on one hand we see that God revealed, shows us how limited we are. And on the other, we see that with true knowledge of God, it can change the destination of souls, where affections are set and alter the direction of one’s worship.
GOD’S RESPONSE TO BAD THEOLOGY
I feel particularly challenged every time I read Scripture, to assess how it is that I am handling what it is that I know.
What I mean by that is, it’s so easy to gift yourself your needed dosages of grace in learning, while being hard on others. It’s also so easy to be hard on others like you are hard on yourself, not realizing that you’re not being realistic towards anyone in the equation. Misdirected and un-submitted zeal, can easily turn into pride and harshness. Being aware of this, I, we, have to constantly ask The Lord to keep us hungry and humble before Him, as we learn.
Look at how God responded to Moses’ “bad” theology of Him in Exodus 3:7-11. As God is telling His plans to Moses and making him aware that He has been overseeing the plight of the Israelites all along, Moses’ mind seems to be drawn to a place that we often find ourselves. Not only do we plug ourselves into Scripture as if it’s all about us. But we also hear and read of God’s character and sovereignty, yet still question His revealed nature of Himself, by inserting our deficiencies unto His Word.
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11) Do you see? Moses responds to all the things God who is sovereign over all creation, says that He will do with, “who am I?” Moses questions God’s plans with his own idea of how capable he is. And God responds in verse 12 with the most important focus: Himself. See, when God corrects wrong thinking about Him or bad doctrine, He doesn’t tell us to look at ourselves or even others that we think are theologically sound. He tells us like He told Moses, to look at what He has done and will do through His Word.
We all should strive to respond to “bad” theology like God does. He does so graciously but seriously. He has full intentions of restoring with His warnings. He puts the solution to the problem and gives the provision for the hearers and readers to govern themselves accordingly. When we find bad theology within our own beliefs or see them visible in others, it is a challenge to lean on God and take up The Scriptures for truth. It isn’t an invitation to shift blame, but instead to be responsible students and faithful disciples. It is a call to bear one another’s burdens and love people enough to not withhold truth out of fear of offending, but to give truth in love with hopes of seeing changed hearts and minds.
REMEMBER THESE THINGS
Theology isn’t bad, but we can be. We have a sin nature with a propensity to turn towards it every opportunity we get. So naturally, the ways in which we handle the things of God won’t always be perfect or best representative of who God truly is. But it doesn’t mean that we can do away with studying God altogether because the bad apples in the non-good bunch He saved, cut up from time to time.
I don’t want anyone to walk away from this article and think that I am reducing or minimizing the impact that a wrong theology of God can have on people. I almost became a member of a church once, in which The Gospel wasn’t being preached and bad theology was being taught. Needless to say, I am not a member of that church and left there very broken and confused. So hear me out: we need a good theology of God to thrive as Believers. We can only know God as He has presented Himself to us and no other distorted way.
The key is striving to have a faithful theology of God. One that starts in The Scriptures and is deposited in one’s mind from there on out. We shouldn’t live as if reading Calvin, Stott, Spurgeon or anyone else will cause God to love us more. God takes our bad theology surrendered unto Him and puts people in our path to help lead us to truth. Whether that be your pastor, a friend, your spouse or an article you read online, God uses those means to do so. If you are seeking to learn more about God, do it from the posture of getting to know your Father better and not from the crippling posture of trying to become a better Christian. God uses every single moment of our lives to sanctify us. So being in the trenches while difficult and crusty, is the best place to be when God is with you. It won’t last forever and things will soon begin to start making sense. You don’t have to do these things on your own. God has gifted us community and so many resources for this reason. As you seek to make sense of your journey, remember that God has already gone before you. He will help you and He won’t leave you. Trust His guidance and know that His love is not contingent upon your right knowledge of Him, but solely upon His faithfulness to Himself.