The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. –Brennan Manning
If you’ve ever ventured any time outside of the four walls of your home or spent time on the Internet, you will, sooner or later, run into “Christians” whose behaviour and doctrinal positions make you cringe. In the United States, a love of ease, a seeming apathy and a growing disinterest in the things of God has replaced sound theology and paved the way for a host of heretics, false prophets, and do-good Christians. Additionally, the Internet makes it easy for fanatical Christians and those with no or very little theological training to draw adherents to their motivational and heretical “truths.” Proving once again, “It is easier to fall for anything than to stand for something.”
Theology: Understanding What We’re Leaning On
Robert Velarde in his article, Why Study God? writes, “Does theology matter? It matters a great deal. Knowing the truth about who God is, who Christ is, and how we can be saved and reconciled with God is not only important, but also eternally relevant and significant.”
Being intelligent about your beliefs is not a bad thing. In his faith and doubt series, Dr. John Snyder stated, “An intellectual grasp of faith is not ‘leaning on our own understanding,’ but, rather, it is understanding what we’re leaning on.” Theology, once upon a time, and in a faraway land, was considered the Queen of the Sciences.
“During the High Middle Ages, theology was therefore the ultimate subject at universities, being named ‘The Queen of the Sciences’ and serving as the capstone to the Trivium and Quadrivium that young men were expected to study. This meant that the other subjects (including Philosophy) existed primarily to help with theological thought.” Click here to read the entire article.
Young men (and, I’ll add, “young women”) were expected to study—theology. And not just at the universities. If you read history, you’ll find that a lot of advanced learning was done at home—tutors and smart parents.
Today, Theology seems to many to be a parochial study of seemingly irrelevant ideas by narrow-minded people who know nothing about the real world. So instead of theology, institutions of higher learning (and even from Kindergarten onwards) offer sensitivity and self-esteem training. And “critical thinking” has moved from being objective analysis to a subjective, self-evoking, “How do I feel about it?”
You Get Heaven, I Get Heaven—We All Get Heaven
The Age of Enlightenment for the world, where other subjects displaced theology and gained in prestige, are the weeds that have strangled and sapped the fruit of the Gospel in our culture. Lukewarm Christians—followers of the Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, and everyone is going to heaven—are grafting into the Gospel message the philosophies of other religions as well as religious practices of the Ancients that have already been proven false and been tossed out by the Early Church.
Christians who have “done it right” (usually proud of not having given in to sexual sin, gotten a divorce, or “sinned,” in general), and feel they’re entitled to cast hell-bound pronouncement on all “sinners,” prove daily why believers try to distance themselves from that kind of faith. These do-gooders tend to say or do something stupid—embarrassingly so.
And then they are the conservative, “doctrinally” correct ones—who answer the question, Can Satan use Christians to create hell on earth for others? Don’t forget Satan is theologically conservative. He knows the truth and is forever trying to blind others to it and lead them away from the Light into utter darkness. He wouldn’t waste his time with Christians, otherwise.
The Solution? Contending for the Faith
Just as surely as he didn’t command us to fall in love with our goodness. Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Let’s bring back sound theological training and critical thinking. Sound theology that will impact our families, churches, and society. It’s been done effectively before. Let’s not flood our churches, home groups, colleges, and seminaries with “How do you feel about this passage” Bible studies, ancient mysticism, religious oneness, legalistic (what you think is right) bondage, or books that God told one to write. Train Christians to articulate their faith intelligently. Educate them on the important differences between their faith and other religions, including the religion of Atheism. Does the Koran teach the killing of infidels? Is spiritual formation biblical? What does it mean to take Jesus’ name in vain? How has Plato influenced our church culture? Is abortion murder? How should we reach out to refugees? Will there ever be peace on earth? What about effective women leaders in the church?
Will the answers to these questions make people think believers are compassionate? Perhaps not always. It means we may sometimes be seen as rigid and uncompromising. But Jesus didn’t say, “Well done, nice and well-meaning servant!”
Let our thinking be logical, our actions intelligent, and let us apply Christian principles of honest speech and mercy as we reach out with the message of hope and love in a strife-torn, confused, and dark world.