When Theology Becomes Idolatry
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Psalm 119:34-35
Theology can be a soothing, subtle, superficially spiritual god, lulling us into a proud, intellectual, and purely cosmetic confidence and rest before God. Theology will kill you if it does not kindle a deep and abiding love for the God of the Bible, and if it does not inspire a desire for his glory, and not ultimately our own. – Marshall Segal
I read this quote the other day, and thought it was so insightful and relevant to some of the cultural battles we are facing today as Christians. While reading through comments and articles posted online by my fellow Christians, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve all lost sight of Jesus while striving to legislate righteousness. Take a few moments to consider where your heart is at, and realign yourself with the freeing truth found in knowing and glorifying God! Here are a few questions to consider as you are pursuing knowledge of God through scripture:
1. Does Your Theology Draw You Closer To God?
A solid theology lights the path towards God, and illuminates more of who He is. A faulty theology will either light the way to pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake, or lead to an argumentative spirit. If your goal is to be right, you’re not fighting the right battle. If your goal is to find more of God, then you’re on the right path!
2. Does Your Theology Send You Further Into The World?Knowing more of God should give us the joyous burden to go and tell others! The deeper our love for Christ is, the deeper our pain should be for the lost and hurting in this world. It is not enough to know the truth, we must share it. The purpose of knowing anything about God is so that the world would know Him too. If, on the other hand, your pursuit of God shuts you in, and makes you judge others, maybe it’s time for a change of heart.
3. Does Your Theology Free You To Love Others?
Good theology breaks down barriers between Christians; it doesn’t build them up. We are reminded here in John, and again in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that we are to be unified, and not quarrel or cause division, especially among the body of believers. As you are enlightened with the truth of who God is through studying scripture, are you counting the ways in which you are different (read: superior) than other Christians in your church? The whole point of the Bible is not to draw lines in the sand, but to empower you to broaden your circles, and give you the freedom to love people right where they’re at.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35
4. Does Your Theology Spur You On To Learn More?
A flawed theology is convinced that it can’t be wrong, whereas a grounded theology prays. Are you satisfied by merely learning the answer to a question, or are you constantly trying to apply this knowledge to your life, therefore running into conflict that leads you back to scripture, and the process starts all over again? Your knowledge should be applied, and revisited, time after time.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. – Psalm 119:18
5. Does Your Theology Humble You?The more you learn about God’s character and His plan for mankind, the more your perspective should shift from making more of yourself, to making more of God. This plays out in a few ways. First of all, you should understand that you’re not going to be right 100% of the time. A humble theology is so much more attractive than a boastful, prideful theology. Second, as your love for God grows, your compassion towards His creation should also increase. Take time to listen to people, their experiences are valid. Don’t just scare them off with your Christianese.
6. Does Your Theology Define Your Treasure?
Is God prized above all else in your life? Does your life look different than it did before Him, or have you just replaced your passion for worldly things with the passion to know for the sake of knowing? Knowledge of God isn’t God. A good measure of this is to take stock of how you’re spending your time studying The Word. Are you spending more time reading extra biblical material than you are reading the Bible itself? Are you more concerned with the commentary and footnotes than with the meat of the scripture itself?
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44
7. Does Your Theology Place Jesus At The Center?
While it is important to know your stance on different issues, both culturally and scripturally, everything should point back to Jesus. His life and ministry as the son of God and man on earth, his death, and his resurrection are the heart of what we believe. The consequences of getting caught up on the details of arguments outside of the person and love of Jesus Christ can and have made some people walk away.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. – John 5:39-40
8. Does Your Theology Increase Your Desire For Holiness?
Your study in scripture isn’t in order to increase the rule by which you measure everyone else, rather it should serve as the rule by which you know and judge your own heart. As you come face to face with the ugliness and depth of your own sin, your theology should inform you of how to live your life in the freedom and forgiveness of Christ.
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. – Psalm 119:11