Tuesday, July 22, 2008

THEOLOGY MATTERS: and it's not JUST a cool t-shirt

Dr. James White is known for making this statement often, and explaining what he means by that. I recall one of the first times I ever heard him say this, and then go on to explain what he meant by it, how I'd wished I would have heard that statement years ago when I was in a messed up church where theology did not matter. Allow me to explain what I mean when I say that.

For me, your theology matters because how you view God, determines how you view yourself, and everything else. If you understand God according to the Scriptures, you are on the right track. If however you understand God through any kind of man-centered ministry or religion, you're definitely not holding to the view of God that HE Himself has left us a record of, through His inspired word. "Theopneustos" - the Scriptures are God-breathed, and there can be no more accurate view or understanding of Him, that what He has given of Himself. Yes, I believe that with all my heart and do not apologize for it. It is a reasonable and a logical understanding that you will never know more about anyone, than you can know from what they themselves have revealed about themself. This is exactly what God Almighty has done through His word. It's that written record that declares who He is, and defines His character toward man. Man cannot improve upon it, take away from it, add to it, or skew it in any way.

A brief background for those who may have never read here before:

In the church I was in as a new Christian, there was a lot more serving the Goodie God, than anything else. Living the Christian life was not about living in fear and reverence of a holy God, it was not about striving for holy living yourself, and it was not about studying the Scriptures so that one might show themselves approved before God, rightly dividing the word, exercising Biblical discernment, and growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nor was it about understanding your sinful nature before a just and righteous God, and battling daily to deny the sinful temptations of the flesh and serve Him with a pure heart. No, in that church it was all about serving the Goodie God.

The Goodie God was the one who, if you just had enough faith you could be healed of whatever ailed you, you could attain financial freedom and success, you could grow by leaps and bounds in your faith (evidenced by embracing the full-on sign-filled wonders taking place, and speaking quite loudly in tongues), and you could have "things" that other Christians didn't have. Because you exercised your free will and decided to follow Jesus, if you also just took that step of faith and named it, then claimed it, you too could have all these goodies, from the Goodie God. You'd know it was all true and real too, evidenced by the powerful and emotional spiritual experiences you were having on a regular basis. Experiences matter a great deal you see, because you can't put God in a box (aka: you cannot confine the work of the Holy Spirit to what the Scriptures alone, say about His ministry in the church). That was what living the Christian life was all about, in that church and in that denomination. It was all about you, your faith, your level of spirituality and what that Goodie God was going to give you if you just mustered up enough faith.

It wasn't until I began to study the Bible on my own time that I began to see a pattern of messages in Scripture that assured me just how much theology matters - and that also made it very clear that what was being taught in my own church, was pure, man-centered junk. I can't explain how much it hurt to see the Bible literally speaking against my own church.

I know that even expressing this, there will be some that write me off as someone who is pompous or taking theology too seriously. I know some folks that love the Lord with all their hearts, do take theology quite seriously, and are often mocked and ridiculed for that very thing. If being made fun of for being serious about God is what happens when you are, then I count myself in some pretty fantastic company.

I couldn't sleep last night, as these thoughts rumbled around in my head. Just before shutting down for the night last night, after clicking a link, then another link on that link, I saw a name being highly praised that was one of the highly praised names in the Goodie God church/denomination, and it just brought back all those old feelings of utter theological and doctrinal confusion, while I was in that church.

Over at Adrian Warnock's blog, he posted a link to Terry Virgo's blog where Terry was going on about what a blessing it was to recently have Mark Driscoll visit there. In that post he writes this:

"Once again God has blessed Newfrontiers by sending another of His choice servants our way. I constantly thank God for the friendships we have enjoyed over the years with such stars as CJ Mahaney, Kriengsak, John Wimber, Rambabu, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Rob Rufus and others, all men of distinctive and diverse styles but whose devotion to Christ is primary and whose friendships I have treasured."
For me, the stand out name was John Wimber. In my old church, that name was spoken more than John the Baptist. My pastor loved him, and was heavily influenced by him and his association with the Third Wave Movement (very brief wikipedia here, which interestingly enough includes links to both Adrian Warnock and Mark Driscoll, and Adrian's understanding that while Driscoll does not specifically name the Third Wave position in a sermon series on the gifts, he is arguing for it all the same), and many others in the charismatic world.

Pastor John MacArthur on what this Third Wave is all about, and if you know nothing about it, I strongly recommend you read this full article - I think you'll see some rather significant parallels to what is currently being endorsed in many "reformed" and evangelical churches:

"So at its very core it is an element of the Charismatic movement. At its core is an obsession with sensational experiences, a preoccupation with the "Charismata" that is, tongues, healings, prophecies, words of knowledge, visions, and ecstatic experiences, and that is, of course, where we find the indisputable link between the Third Wave and the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. In all three movements there is a major absorption with these supernatural, sensational kind of power encounters or power displays as they like to call them. They de-emphasize what you and I would know as the traditional means of spiritual growth: prayer, Bible study, the teaching of the Word, and the fellowship of other believers. They don't intend to do that and they wouldn't do that in statement or even in print. But because of the very surpassing emphasis on the sensational experiences, those matters tend to get pushed significantly, if not all together, into the background. Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wavers, all will affirm that any Christian who is not experiencing some supernatural events, some supernatural giftedness, some kinds of healings, some kinds of prophecies, words of knowledge, or manifestations of the Spirit of God, in visible tangible ways, is really stuck at a low level of spiritual progress; is denying the full power of God and denying himself the blessing of God." (source)

In a preface to a chapter in a book criticizing Wimber's theology and doctrinal positions, Sandy Simpson at deceptioninthechurch.com says this:

"The problems are the same. What were then the birth pangs of renewed gnosticm and eastern mysticism in the Vineyard and other Penetecostal churches are now the key issues facing the entire church and the few true believers who are left with discernment." (source)

While I cannot vouch for or personally endorse every resource on that site, I can say that this statement nails it right on, and that this particular page is very educational into the doctrine and theology and the resources that shaped the belief system of the late John Wimber.

So, I found it striking that someone would classify men like Mahaney, Piper, Wimber, Grudem and others, as God's "choice servants" and "stars", in the same post that is going on and on and on about Mark Driscoll, also naming him as "choice servant" as well. I'd guess I'd put this into the category of exalting "Evangelebrities". Something that seems to be on the increase, as communication technology advances through blogging, podcasting, and youtubery. Key figures seem to emerge and become lifted up as "stars" among us.

What does this mean in the bigger picture? I have no idea, but I do have a feeling that a lot of those who call themselves "reformed" and "charismatic" at the same time might not be nearly as critical of my old church, as I am. I find that striking as well, and deeply disturbing. While none of this is new to me, it just seems to keep popping up all the time, and with more frequency. Also rather disturbing, is that it's becoming more and more embraced by those who call themselves reformed, or Calvinistic.

Proving once again, as James says so often: THEOLOGY MATTERS. Unfortunately, I don't think it matters to as many, in the same way, as it once did.

Great Christian t-shirts and gift ideas for the whole family