1. What does my level of theological knowledge say about my priorities in my own faith development?
By God's grace, at the time of my salvation (Jan, 1981), I was also
called into the ministry. I remember, as a newly birthed believer,
questioning my worthiness. My home church pastor, Dale Ihrie, poked me
in the chest and said "you do not have the right to question the
worthiness of something God has claimed!" It was my first theological
lesson. I'd like to say that my theological training at Princeton Seminary was
soundly reformed, but it was largely tainted by the personal interests
of the professors. We read Luther, Calvin, Schleieremacher, Kant,
Augustine Aquinas, A'Kempis, Bultmann, von Rad, and others, but Biblical
Theology, what Paul taught or what Peter taught was never placed into a
greater context of what I would call a solid Biblical Theology.
Theology was seen to be particular to the individual, not a Biblically cohesive position. It has only been
through my reading of scripture and Bible studies with members of the
congregations I have served, through prayer and observation that the
theology of the Bible has truly been shaped and come to form my faith. When I want to know
what I should believe, I consult scripture, directly, and assume that
the plain sense of a passage is the clear intent of the passage. These are simple words for everyday people seeking Godly wisdom.
2. What kind of theological error or inconsistency do I see around me?
The most pernicious and consistent theological error I see is what I
would call a socialized theology. Within the church there are social
conservatives and social progressives. Those whose faith is shaped by
their standing on social issues, rather than their standing on social
issues being shaped by their theology. One camp believes abortion is
wrong and so they claim that as a Christian perspective, that
conservativism is right and assume God supports a particular party. The
other camp believes that social justice is necessary and sets about
tearing scripture from its context to make their point. All eisegetical
nonsense. The other pernicious theological error I see is the radical
individualism rampant in America that seems to say, no one has the right
to tell me what to believe. Scripture clearly teaches that some are
called to be apostles, some evangelists, some prophets, preachers and
teachers. Yet too many "church goers" seem to exist on a Sunday School
level of theology, refusing to take the time to read scripture and study
scripture, take to heart what is spoken from the pulpit (if indeed they even have a believing pastor), as well as theological books, and instead wasting their time on
television shows and reading literary drivel, socializing with friends, engaging in sporting nonsense and worthless cultural activities. Sunday is seen as an hour
or two commitment to listening (but not hearing) to someone else. Bible Studies might
involve 15 minutes of reading in preparation for the class only to end up sharing an opinion on what the passage might mean, while our
secular professions occupy hours of labor and reading and classes for
professional advancement which do nothing in our preparation for
eternity. The bottom line in all of this is that our faith is seen as a
minor portion of our lives, a vehicle worthy of only a limited
investment of our time and effort. And largely our faith development is
retarded accordingly. This is why people grieve so bitterly over
sickness, and death, and suffering, and oppression. There is no sense of
God's majesty, of God's Sovereignty. No sense of the joy of eternity. No theology of life!
3. How do I graciously address these?
Not very well. I find it difficult to see people spending so much time,
so much money, so much talent on things that neither advance the
Kingdom, nor proclaim the truth of scripture. Faith seems something
that people really don't want to (not can't) take the time to develop.
While I should feel sorrow and compassion, I tend to feel resentment and disdain for those who call themselves Christian but fail to address the radical nature of the call to a;ways be prepared to give a defense for why we believe.
4. How do I respond when others attempt to point out theological errors or inconsistencies in my life?
I like to think that I question them thoroughly, receive any
constructive criticism willingly, and process it accordingly. But quite
honestly, I can't think of the last time someone challenged my
theology, except in the ordination and calling process.
5. What is God saying to me about this?
I'm really not sure, just yet...I need to process this more...