Battling Bad Theology

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, December 15, 2015 0 comments

by Bill Seng

“I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” ~Romans 15:14

Although verses of this sort might seem innocent upon a casual reading, to some individuals they really stick out and dictate certain aspects of their day-to-day lives. I am sure that most of our readers probably have glanced over this verse and not thought much about its implications. I would venture to say that most of you probably have a fairly sober theology. Upon a closer reading of this verse, some have become filled with pride as they assume that they have become spiritually complete in all things. One of my close friends has shared with me a series of encounters he has had where he has brushed up against people of this sort of mentality. He has asked my advice concerning how to deal with the issues they have raised, and I have made a good effort to help him with his predicament. Let me briefly describe the situation and then I will give some pointers concerning how to stand strong in the face of theologians who are just so certain of themselves.

My friend attends a Biblically faithful church and is a student of God’s Word. He interacts with many people that have different understandings about Christianity. One day he came across an individual who believed that you could become spiritually perfect and that if you sin as a Christian you lose your salvation. In other words, if you tell a lie then walk outside, cross the street, are hit by a bus, and die before you confess your sin you go to hell. This person my friend had met presented him to yet another person who claimed that he had achieved spiritual perfection.

My friend was somewhat dumbfounded and asserted that no one can be without sin. This person then asked, “Do you have a sin to accuse me of?” My friend graciously responded “No” and allowed this person to explain why they think they could be spiritually perfect. He proceeded to cite verses throughout the Bible along the lines of the one stated above, to show that people within the context of the Bible had achieved spiritual perfection and that Scripture teaches that you can achieve this perfection as well. Afterwards, my friend sent me an audio message of a teacher that espouses this person’s beliefs to see what I thought.

Oddly enough, I agreed with a lot of what the person on the audio message was saying. But in listening to the entire message, I found the flaws that this sect of Christians used to arrive at their theological conclusions. Instead of detailing these, I will instead reveal the general principles that most bad theologies violate when they devise their conclusions.

1) They forget the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice. Whether your theology is based on works salvation or unconditional election, in my opinion, neither side of the spectrum acknowledges the full sufficiency of the cross. We are saved on the merits of Jesus and our acceptance of his sacrifice. Period.

2) They undermine the authority of the Bible. In the case I described, it is very interesting that they claimed superior understanding of the Scriptures because of external sources that were written by the early church fathers. Ultimately what they ended up doing is cherry picking passages from the works of the early church fathers that coincided with their theological biases, and they misinterpreted some of these passages to support their beliefs. The other side of the spectrum often does this with their citations of Martin Luther or other great Reformers.

3) They either neglect or overemphasize the need to live a holy life. On one end, people might say, “Don’t worry about what you do, you are saved by grace!” We are saved by grace, but you cannot disregard God’s call to be perfect as he is perfect. One who sins with no regard to the high price of the sacrifice of Jesus, in my opinion, may not truly understand the Gospel message. On the other hand, if you believe that you are more righteous than the apostle Paul who openly admits his weakness as a Christian and you rely on your own works over the grace of God, I again question whether you truly understand the Gospel message. That is not to say, in either instance, that you are not saved, but I believe it is reason to reevaluate one’s faith commitment.

Frankly, I have no problem with anyone who is certain that his or her theology is correct. However, one of the things that my friends and I learned in seminary, which is vitally important in keeping unity with the church, is how much we don’t know and can’t know. In the case I described, there was no convincing the person who believed he was perfect that he was not. How can someone imperfect tell someone who is perfect that they are wrong? (I am using his reasoning here.) We have to be humble, and I think these three points that I have provided can help in disputable matters. Always place your trust fully in the work of Jesus. Always rely on the authority of Holy Scripture. And always live a life worthy of God’s calling filled with grace toward those you interact with.

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