One of the greatest tragedies in the church today is that so many people think theology is boring.
I have even encountered people who think that “theology” is a Christian curse word. They seem to think that one can either have Christian love or Christian theology, but not both.
What they fail to realize is that this idea itself is a theological belief, and a sadly mistaken one at that. It’s just poor theology to think that Christian love and Christian theology cannot co-exist. I am convinced that true Christian theology, when rightly taught and understood, will lead to Christian love.
The foundation of Christian love IS Christian theology.
If someone wants to reject Christian theology as dry, dusty, boring, and irrelevant for modern life, they should at least make some effort to learn what it is they are rejecting before they reject it. I find that most people who reject theology as irrelevant have never really taken the time to learn any real theology.
The emphasis there is on “real.”
Lots of people think they know what Christian theology is, when in reality, they only know some popularized, week-kneed, insipid form of theology that does not reflect real Christianity at all. Of course they’re bored, if this is what they think real theology is!
One of my favorite theologians is Dorothy Sayers, and in her book Letters to a Diminished Church, she perfectly summarizes this popularized (but completely false) version of Christian theology as follows:
Q: What does the church think of God the Father?
A: He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfillment; he is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferes by means of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He likes to be truckled to and is always ready to pounce on anyone who trips up over a difficulty in the law or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary.
Q: What does the Church think of God the Son?
A: He is in some way to be identified with Jesus of Nazareth. It was not His fault that the world was made like this, and, unlike God the Father, He is friendly to man and did His best to reconcile man to God (see Atonement). He has a good deal of influence with God, and if you want anything done, it is best to apply to Him.
Q: What does the Church think of God the Holy Ghost?
A: I don’t know exactly. He was never seen or heard of till [Pentecost]. There is a sin against Him which damns you forever, but nobody knows what it is.
Q: What is the doctrine of the Trinity?
A: The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible. Something put in by theologians to make it more difficult—nothing to do with daily life or ethics.
Q: What was Jesus Christ like in real life?
A: He was a good man—so good as to be called the Son of God. He is to be identified in some way with God the Son (q.v.). He was meek and mild and preached a simple religion of love and pacifism. He had no sense of humor. Anything in the Bible that suggests another side to His character must be an interpolation, or a paradox invented by G. K. Chesterton. If we try to live like Him, God the Father will let us off being damned hereafter and only have us tortured in this life instead.
Q: What is meant by the Atonement?
A: God wanted to damn everybody, but His vindictive sadism was sated by the crucifixion of His own Son, who was quite innocent, and therefore a particularly attractive victim. He now only damns people who don’t follow Christ or who never heard of Him.
Q: What does the Church think of sex?
A: God made it necessary to the machinery of the world, and tolerates it, provided the parties (a) are married, and (b) get no pleasure out of it.
Q: What does the Church call Sin?
A: Sex (otherwise than as excepted above); getting drunk; saying “damn”; murder, and cruelty to dumb animals; not going to church; most kinds of amusement. “Original sin” means that anything we enjoy doing is wrong.
Q: What is faith?
A: Resolutely shutting your eyes to scientific fact.
Q: What is the human intellect?
A: A barrier to faith.
Q: What are the seven Christian virtues?
A: Respectability; childishness; mental timidity; dullness; sentimentality; censoriousness; and depression of spirits.
Q: Wilt thou be baptized in this faith?
A: No fear!
As I teach and write about Scripture and theology, I have discovered that the above descriptions perfectly represent the theology of many Christians.
When I teach about Genesis 1–2 and science, people get upset that I am seeking to understand these passages in a way other than the one endorsed by the Creation Science Institute (which really isn’t science at all…)
When I write in my book The Atonement of God that God was not angry about sin, and did not need Jesus to die so that we could be forgiven, people get upset that I am presenting a God who looks and acts just like Jesus Christ instead of like a Hitlerian Zeus.
When I write about sexual innuendos in the Bible, I get nasty emails from people about how I have succumbed to the sexualized culture of modern America. Don’t I know that sex if of the devil except in the case of procreation?
Anyway … one of the early goals of my writing and blogging was to “Bring Scripture and Theology to Life.” This had a double meaning: I not only seek to teach Scripture and Theology in a lively way, but also so that people learned how Scripture and Theology affected their lives today.
I hope I am accomplishing this through my blogging, my books, and my podcast. Very soon I will be adding some theology courses on my blog as well … Stay tuned for more details!