The Entrance Leads to the Whole

So, know anyone with some really bad theology? Like you hear them talk and all you can hear are the lies, errors and misrepresentations they are spouting and it makes you want to scream? OK, maybe you don’t actually care about theology that much. It’s probably better if you don’t when you get right down to it.

But, we all know people who are intensely passionate about their opinions. And hey – if just putting your theology into the category of “opinion” offends you, well, passion’s not a bad thing. But that’s not really here nor there. My point was that some people have terrible theology. Like Westboro Baptist. And . . . well, we won’t get into the rest. Let’s just say there’s no end of churches believing really wacky things.

Of course, it doesn’t all lead to crazy land. Some people have theology that you just think is wrong. Like Jehovah’s witnesses. I had a pair who stopped coming after I told them that living forever on Earth would never, ever be desirable to me. Because until I can reside with the God of the universe, I will not be content. There’s more to the world than our little planet and our people. They were appalled that I would reject the gift of eternal life. I was going to go into the role of the mosquito in the ecosystem to illustrate that their perfect Earth couldn’t exist, but they left before I had the chance. But again, not my point.

What I really want to talk about is why we need to stop worrying so much about how wrong everyone else is. We’ve been doing that for a while now and I’m not sure what we think we’re going to gain by keeping it up. We disagree. About almost everything. Maybe we need to get over it and start building on a different foundation.

Of course, the bible says that there’s only one foundation – Christ Jesus – which a man can build on. And that on the day of judgment what a man builds on that foundation will be tested with fire. What is worthless will burn away, but the man will escape with his life, but as one who has come through fire. Seriously. That’s what it says. That’s how it works – what you build that has value will be purified and what you build that is worthless will burn off.

And friends, I have to tell you that being able to see other people’s errors just isn’t a particularly valuable skill to have. In a world where you can feel like a decent person because you have strong feelings about not torturing kittens, it’s not really an accomplishment. Especially when the only cost for pointing out other people’s errors is being rejected by people you don’t like anyways.

Being able to raise arguements against other people’s errors is, meh. Not entirely without merit, but it just only takes you so far. At some point all the arguments have been made and one or the other of you has declared, “I’d rather be wrong than change my mind!” Keep arguing once you’ve reached that point and you will find yourself engaging in disreputable practice of apologetics.

For those of you who are not familiar with apologetics, you know that habit some Christians have of answering questions no body asked in ways that haven’t convinced anyone in at least a decade? Yeah. About that. What happened is that some young Christian was able to outwit his skeptical buddy one night in the dorm where they may or may not have been toking weed together. He got super excited about it and told all the Christians he knew so they could try it out as well. Here and there, other Christians stumbled upon a novel argument that succeeded in throwing some skeptic or a vulnerable, hurting human off balance. (Because we live in a world where people are sometimes born with tails. Strange and wonderous things happen every day.) Modern apologetics was born when some enterprising youth minister started collecting these arguments that worked this one time and passing them off as legitimate ways to bring others to Christ. (This is exactly how political ideologies defend themselves as well. Thus the similarity between religion and politics.)

The main function of apologetics is to allow us to create an imaginary world where we can argue the questions we want to answer against the opponents we wished had. And since we know we’re right even if no one else agrees, we get to win everytime! Just like in God Is Not Dead. (If you are not familiar with God Is Not Dead, I’ve refrained from including a link so you can keep it that way. You are missing nothing.)

OK, I’m being uncharitable. Sometimes you really do have great arguments. Sometimes you’re actually right. And you are completely correct about how and why someone else is wrong. But being able to tear down someone else’s building in your own head isn’t much of an accomplishment. Are you planning to start bragging to God about all the arguments you won when he asks you to give an account of your life? Is that really the best you can do?

So, let’s go back to the foundation which is Christ Jesus. Your job is to build your own monument to God on that foundation. Supervising how everyone else is building their monument is not part of your job. So focus on your own building. Make it right out in the open, right next to all the other buildings, following the instructions left on the foundation as closely as you can figure out how.

Changing people’s hearts is God work. Our work is to allow God to change our own hearts. When you stop arguing with everyone and just concentrate on working out your own salvation, you discover something amazing. What God really needs isn’t defenders and apologists and persuasive theologians. What he needs is just a little opening to get into a person’s world. All we have to do is get out of the way so God can do his work in peace.

You see, Christianity has this little quirk to it. As theologian David Fitch puts it:

In the history of Christianity, we have often narrowed the gospel to one formulae/entrance point frozen within in a culture that we have been previously raised in and become comfortable in. We then canonize this one entrance point and leave it there. . . .

Each one of these is a valid expression of the gospel. More importantly however is that each one (and many more) provides a valid entry point to the Kingdom that if followed can lead to the whole of the gospel being fleshed out in the whole of life . . . 

All of our worrying and arguing over theology over looks the power of God. If you follow Christ and you accept the great commandment and the golden rule as reflecting God’s way, it doesn’t matter where you start, theologically speaking. The power of God will pull you through, if you are willing to cooperate with the process.

You don’t have to believe all the right things. You just need to believe one right thing for God to begin to work. And, frankly, all of our arguing and criticizing is us just getting in the way. We’ve been arguing for quite a while now. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve tried that path and it just isn’t going to take us where we’re supposed to be going. So, how about we go back to Jesus and the really simple stuff and work on loving our brother with the bad theology as a brother and trust God to do the rest.

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One thought on “The Entrance Leads to the Whole

  1. I’d fault the Jehovah’s for a theology based on ‘somebody’s interpretation of the Bible ‘(rather than on ‘my [your name here] own discernment of what God wants to tell me through the Bible, through what happens, through what God puts into my fool head.’ Not that any of those things are necessarily to be taken at face value, just that there’s less chance of misunderstandings if one stays alert for clarification of Whatever Little Thing You’ve Got Wrong. [‘nothing’? Not likely.]

    But I don’t see anything inherently incongruent between “staying here” and “residing with God.” Whether you like Paul’s notion of God arriving like a contemporary secular ruler touring his dominions [which as Crossan pointed out, would imply reorganizing his administration here personally — not collecting his partisans and taking them elsewhere while the malcontents burned the place down] or something more logically consistent, ie that God is here already “but people don’t see it” there’s no need to move unless you & God prefer that.

    Could we have a working ecosystem without mosquitos, bacteria [most of the DNA used by your bod] or larger predators…? Truly, that wouldn’t be possible without continual divine micromanagement.

    But if the ‘laws’ of the universe are like the ‘law of the Sabbath’ — made for humanity’s sake, rather than us being made for them to be inflexibly applied to us — then we could just wave our little “get out of jail free” cards and let the details arrange themselves. Like when you realize, in a dream, that “This is my dream and I can FLY!” If you’d rather play with real money… Probably there’s some optimal setting where the dangers are real enough but you get backsies as needed?

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