Theology Matters: Curative versus Performative Theology

Where does your theology place the emphasis of Christianity? You may have a pristine systematic approach or favor a more simplistic framework emphasizing faith. Either way, we need to consider where the focal point of our theology lies. We default to merit as the basis of our right standing with God, so do we primarily need a cure or a performance evaluation? Is our theology curative or performative?

Curative Theology

Theology is curative when it focuses on Christ outside of us for the forgiveness of our sins. When ministry and forgiveness of sins for sinners intersect, abstraction gives way to absolution. We are absolved and empowered as the church fulfills its mission.

Curative theology is supernaturally transformative from within rather than an external push for behavioral compliance. Focusing on the cure does not negate the importance of Christian living but properly establishes the priority of dealing with the sickness instead of the symptoms.

Performative Theology

Theology is performative when it focuses on our actions or desires. Someone once told me I was so uptight that a diamond would be the output if I ate a coal brick. My mindset was that we had to adhere to the principles we could derive from Scripture with self-flagellating enthusiasm. As time passed, I shifted the focus from outward behavior to inner desire, but the result was the same. I was obsessed with performance; as all sinners know, that was a losing game before it began.

Performative theology is needed but should be secondary. Our conduct, behavior, and desires flow from our identity. Our identity is formed and reformed by the Gospel. Does our performance matter? You bet! Is our performance curative? Not in the slightest, or Christ’s sacrifice was meaningless.

Medicinal Ministry

Where does your church spend most of its time regarding your faith? Does it reinforce your proclivity toward religious observance? Are sermons one part diagnostic TED talk and one part marching orders, or do they prioritize proclamations of Christ crucified for you? Imagine a bottle of medicine sitting on the pulpit that could cure the condition of the congregation. Does your pastor spend more time reviewing the ingredients, directions, and side effects or dispensing the cure? Is the cure even administered?

Jesus didn’t come to heal those who were well. He came as the Great Physician to call sinners (Mark 2:17). The ministry of the local church should focus on the Gospel such that the side effects of the Spirit’s fruit overflow in generosity, love, and obedience.

The Great Physician didn’t come to give us weekly checkups or to run lab tests on our works. He came to resurrect us as we lie dead in our trespasses. He gifted us with the means of grace to continuously renew and refresh us. Performative theology should be the natural product of curative theology. Our good works flow from hearts and hands transformed by the heart of the Father toward us and the nail-scarred hands of the Savior bleeding for us.

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

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