OK, Becky, this is for you.
THEOLOGY: The study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world.
That definition is from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. I bring it up because I have a question for everyone. Who do you think is the greatest theologian who has ever existed? I won't tell you the answer just yet. I just want you to think about it. Oh, maybe I should mention that in this instance, I am talking about Christianity, and not some other faith.
A theologian is someone who studies to understand God and they way that God takes care of business on a day to day basis. A theologian essentially knows how God functions, and then can explain it to others. A theologian can tell you all sorts of things about Scripture. A good one can explain the texts from the original languages too.
I heard a very famous pastor/theologian in my denomination say of another pastor, "I like M--- D------ because I agree with his theology." My immediate question when I heard that was, "Hmm, is that all that matters?"
I should explain some of my background for context. (Context is everything, you know.) Back when I was doing Youth Work, I was hired by a church that had all of the correct theology. In fact, the pastor that made that statement about agreeing with the other's theology would have loved this particular churches' theology. This church had all of the right thoughts, opinions and ideas...all of the proper head knowledge. In other words, they had proper Orthodoxy.
One thing this church did not have was any type of Orthopaxy. I.E. "Right Actions." It was the most dysfunctional, cold hearted, un-loving environment I have ever stepped into. To be fair, I should state it wasn't entirely their fault. The head pastor had recently been removed for adultery. The people there were in a great deal of pain. I, as the new Youth guy, got to be a tap dancer in a mine field for them. They took as much of their pain out on me as they could. I wasn't the only one. As I understand it they chewed up and spit out 6 other guys in the course of 5 years.
At any rate, I learned the hard way that head knowledge only gets you so far.
Here is my contention. The church in America loves to debate theological issues, and divide ourselves accordingly. I am specifically referring to Evangelicals. We love to bash each other over minute distinctives that have very little to do with day-to-day life. We turn mole hills into mountains. Example: My post a while back about John Piper and Greg Boyd. Those guys agree on at least 95% of all the issues, not to mention that they have the commonality of Christ in their lives. Yet, one of those two seems to want to burn the other at the stake.
OK, now for the answer to my original question.
This guy is by far and away the most brilliant theologian who has ever existed. He can read every word in the Bible in it's original language...with out an accent too. He can explain in detail every theological theory & argument that has ever been. In fact, he can even settle the debate over Predestination VS. Free-Will, AND wether or not the Creation stories are absolutely literal, or more figurative. He knows more about God then anyone walking the earth.
Want to know who that is? (Drum roll, please.)
Yeah, I said it. (Can't wait to read the comments & e-mails on this one)
It's true though. Think about it, Satan has a massive amount of Head Knowledge about God. Heck, the guy used to wander around God's throne room watching the action. He actually spoke with the triune God of the universe on a regular basis. (Probably shared a couple of lattes with Him too.) Let's face it, Lucifer has made a career studying the way God operates. (Primarily in an effort to make life for humans miserable, Believers in particular.) Based on the definition of what a theologian is and does, Lucy does qualify for being the greatest theologian ever.
SO, what is the difference between Satan and, lets say, Billy Graham? It's the relationship. Billy Graham has a healthy, loving relationship with Jesus. Lucy, I would argue, has a rather unhealthy relationship with Jesus.
For me, the scariest passage in the Bible comes towards the end of Jesus masterpiece, the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7: 15-23, Jesus makes some truly frightening statements. I won't quote the whole thing, but the scary part is the following:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!"
Think about how scary that is! Whoever these folks are, they performed miracles, got rid of demons, and did the prophecy thing, and yet they are bound for Hell. These folks thought that they were saved!!! They did the churchy stuff. They were probably very "Religious." I would bet that a few of them even had their own T.V. shows where they slew people in the spirit, told people how to vote...and asked for a lot of money.
What they obviously didn't have was a healthy relationship with Jesus. They didn't really KNOW Jesus, and he certainly didn't KNOW them. (Cause that's what Jesus says.)
What is the evidence of a healthy relationship with Jesus? Is it primarily what you think about God? Is it agreeing 100% with a given doctrine? Is it because you "Agree with his theology?" In other words, is it what's in your head?
Well, according to Jesus, it seems to have something to do with what is in your heart, and not the head so much...because what is really & truly in your heart will come out through your actions & behaviors towards others. In fact, in that very scary tale that Jesus told, he says that the kingdom of heaven is reserved for those you DO the will of his Father. Go back to that passage and jump up to verse 16. "By their fruit you will recognize them." (This is in reference to who is true Believer, and who is a fraud.) In fact, Jesus brings that up a lot...good trees vs. bad trees and such. Jesus seems to be saying that if you really want to FOLLOW him, then you better ACT like him.
This goes rather nicely with what Paul told the church in Galatia. When Paul begins writing about living by the Spirit, he goes off on a tangent and gives examples of what this would look like. If a person really & truly IS a Believer, the Holy Spirit will produce a variety of fruits & vegetables in that Believer's life that pretty much even a blind person could see.
"But the fruit of the Spirit IS love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...Since we live BY the Spirit, let us keep in step WITH the Spirit."
Sad to say, but a huge chunk of people I know who say that they are Christians hardly show ANY of those types of crops. In fact, if you bother to read the book Un-Christian by the guys from the Barna Research group, most folks outside the church are of the opinion that so-called Christians produce the exact opposite. How in the world did that happen? It does cause me to have more than a few nagging questions and doubts about people who call themselves a Christian, and yet no fruit is evident. (And that includes more than a few famous ones)
http://www.unchristian.com/ I keep tellin' ya to go out and get that book. It ought to be mandatory reading for every body of Believers.
You know, those fruits such as love & patience are not always things that folks can see in a minute or so. These are things that are manifested over time, and are observed by others through an authentic & caring relationship. The same can be said for a person's walk with Christ. After all, you are trying to get to know Jesus just like you would be trying to get to know another person. (I rather like the idea that Jesus is a dude that you can just hang out with and chill. That's pretty cool that the God of the universe is really that approachable.)
Jesus didn't seem to spend a great deal of time worrying or explaining the details of how his Father went about getting the job done, or what our specific theological mind sets ought to be. He would merely call people to repent, to love God with all our hearts...and our neighbors as ourselves. Then he would always go off and tell us how to act, how to behave, how to LIVE in this broken world and our neighbors. Jesus always led by example. (If you can't or won't lead by example, you shouldn't be leading at all.) He was always giving examples of how we are to treat others.
I think that if you really KNOW God, then you will be working on having the same mindset as Jesus. Paul was always going on about wanting to be like Jesus. He wanted to KNOW Jesus and identify with him. This always resulted in Paul living, acting and behaving towards folks in loving ways.
The church in America needs to get it's priorities straight. I've been fortunate enough to live in a couple of other countries, and to visit a few more. One thing I noticed is that the Believers over there rarely seem to argue and beat each other up over theology. Instead, they loved & helped each other because that was the only way to survive. Why aren't we doing that?
I guess that when it comes to theology and what is truly important, for myself, I can sum it up in one easy phrase.
If it doesn't match up with the character & behavior that Jesus displayed while on earth, and if it doesn't emphasize & prioritize the same things that Jesus did, then it is simply wrong!!!!! And I don't care how many PhDs you have, or how many books you have published.
Head Knowledge (Orthodoxy) has it's place. But if it doesn't have the hands-on, down in the mud & muck Heart Knowledge (Orthopraxy) to go with it hand in hand, then you aren't doing the kingdom any favors. And I think that Jesus' little bro, Jimmy, would agree with me on that point.
In fact, if you are the type of person who is saying all types of "Religious" stuff, but not being a open, vulnerable person who is honest about living out your faith, then I would ask you if you really KNOW Jesus at all...or even worse, does he KNOW you?
Hey folks, it's just like it is for the rest of life. It's all about who you KNOW. :)