Thursday, February 01, 2007

"I'm really not into doctrine or theology..."

Like Freddy Krueger, some canards/dodges never seem to die. You think they're dead. Goodness knows they've been killed and killed. But they keep popping back up.

Here's one:
"I'm not really into doctrine or theology; I'm more into life. I just want to love Jesus."
Ever take that one apart for the dodger who's talking to you? There are a couple of ways of responding.

One way could go something like this:
  1. You say "I." Who and what are you? Are you an evolved animal, the product of conditioning and glands and solely material causes? Do your thoughts have any more meaning and significance than a sneeze or a tic? Are you the product of an unthinking process, so that meaning and morality are irrelevant to you? Are you created by an infinite-personal God, and morally accountable to Him? Do you differ from the rest of creation? How? How do you know? That's for starters.
  2. You say "not really into." How did you decide that? On what basis? Does this not assume a hierarchy of values? On what does your ethical code rest? How did you arrive at it? Is it for you only, or for others as well? If only for you, why so? If for others, on what authority? How do you know what you know? Are you a solipsist? A positivist? A nihilist? Can others know what you know? How? Should they? Why?
  3. You say "doctrine or theology." No doctrine or theology? Which doctrine or theology are you not into? Is there a God? Can you describe Him in non-doctrinal and non-theological terms? Are not all predications about God, by definition, both doctrinal and theological? Is not your anti-doctrinal position itself a doctrinal position?
  4. You say you're into "life"? What life? What kind of life? What does it look like? How do you get it? How do you distinguish it from its opposite? Do all have this life? If not, why do you have it, while they do not? Can they get it? How? Why, or why not?
  5. You say you just want to "love." What is "love"? Why love and not hate? What would love look like? What makes love good? Does love have a shape, form, and edges? Do all have it? Why, why not? How can the have-nots get it? How can it be distinguished from its opposite? On what authority?
  6. You say you want to love "Jesus." Who or what is a Jesus? Did He exist? Does He? How do you know? Can anyone else know? On what basis? Was He the Son of God? What does that mean? Was He virgin-born? Why? What kind of life did He live? What did His life mean? Did He die? How? Why? To what end? With what result? What does He demand? Can you have forgiveness through Him? Forgiveness of what? Why? How? What does He offer? Does only He offer it, or do others offer it as well? Do you know that any answer you give to any of these questions is necessarily both doctrinal and theological?
You could answer that way.

Or you could just say, "Wow. That is really stupid."


Pastor Steve said...

I might compare it to saying you want to be an auto mechanic, but then saying you're not into the car manuals. It's impossible to know how to glorify God if you aren't into doctrine or theology.

The one I especially find depressing is "I can be a good Christian without going to church."

Personally, I would prefer to just call them stupid, but my theology doesn't let me get away with that.

DJP said...

Oh, that's a classic. Various responses possible. Top one that comes to mind:

"What does 'Christian' mean? Follower of Christ. So, you can be a good follower-of-Christ without actually following Christ? How did you work that one out?"

donsands said...

Another dandy post! Thanks.

I'll give some of those responses a try.

Usually I say, "I love doctrine and theology, because Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me."

LeeC said...

Reminds me of a prominant "Christian psychologist" who is known for saying he's not a theologian.

Theology = Knowledge of God

You don't know God and you don't want to?

BTW blogger is serously having issues right now....

Pastor Steve said...

A result of this rejection of theology is naturally placing yourself as the final authority, and that usually means following after your emotions.

I constantly run across people who leave a good church for a church that is doctrinally corrupt and then they say the reason they are doing so is because they FEEL it is God's will and that they have PEACE about it.

Chip said...

I guess which of the two answers you give really depends on how much time you have.

Of course, both answers are dandy.

Unknown said...

I'm with you on this. So the follow-up question is, how stupid can you be and still be saved.

;- )

For my own sake, I'm hoping the answer is, "very".

donsands said...

Here's a Bible verse that i really identify with:

"Surely I am more stupid than any man" Prov. 30:2

Kaffinator said...

Hi Steve,

> Personally, I would prefer to just call them stupid, but my theology doesn't let me get away with that.

That comment made me think. After all, Jesus Himself called quite a few people stupid during his brief career. But, His comments were directed towards those who should've known better.

Chances are, someone who says they're not into doctrine or theology but into Jesus, either has had some kind of bad experience with self-titled theologian(s) and/or hasn't really learned the value of theology. I can see how a few introspective questions like Dan's just might help, if they weren't asked in a threatening way. But I think there would be value in learning why someone came to that conclusion--there might be a good reason, besides intellectual laziness.

Pastor Steve said...

I think the gospels seem to show that Christ was hardest on those people who were spiritual leaders who led people in error (willingly and purposefully). I guess most of the people I run into who have doctrinal error are more the products of these teachers rather than the teachers themselves. For those I would tenderly and lovingly try to guide them back to the truth. I would have a lot less patience on the false teachers themselves.

Call to Die said...

In the first real post I put up on my blog- an article titled "YOU are a theologian"- I addressed this very issue with the following illustration:

"A preacher was once chided by a person in his church after a sermon that was considered too doctrinal. The critic informed the preacher, 'We don't need that theology stuff, we just need to love Jesus Christ.' To which the preacher replied, 'Jesus who?' 'Jesus Christ,' the man replied. 'Do you think that Christ was His last name?' asked the preacher. 'Do you think Jesus was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Mary Christ and that the the postman in Nazareth looked for the name Christ on their mailbox? You see, in linking the name and title Jesus Christ together the way you just did, you have inadvertently committed an act of theology.' [This illustration is a paraphrase of one I have heard from a couple of different sources such as R.C. Sproul and, I believe, Al Mohler.]