The Future Trend of Theology

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It is obvious today that the current trend of theology and its study has led to a division among the Christian community. However, much worst, the post-modern form has led to a total distortion of the Biblical truths which laid the foundations for the development of Christian beliefs and the doctrines that are presented to the church today. This has not occurred overnight. It has been an incremental ignorance to the twisting of Biblical principles and the lost obligation of demanding an accountable form of interpretation of Scripture. The constant adjustments made to the truth of Scripture in order to accommodate a non-abrasive and non-confrontational  form of theological beliefs in a self-serviced type of Christianity, has brought about distorted views and religion that serves the individual more than God.

In relation of the events that we have been a witnessing, Colossians  2:8 warns us, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”. Also we see in 2 Peter 2:1 the following, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction”. Look at how Peter speaks about future teachers, “there shall be among you”. Peter is not warning about outsiders who will attack sound beliefs and teachings, but false teachers among the Christian community. The responsibility to avoid falling into false teachings is placed on every Christian, who is required to grow as Ephesians 4:14 also warns us, “That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, {and} cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”. In these three verses we see the (1) the warning to be aware, (2) the false teachers that will be among us that will bring damnable heresies, and (3) our responsibility to no longer be children (in our knowledge and understanding) so that we be not carried about with every wind of doctrine.

Here lies the future trend of theology. The theology known by most church goers is established by that which is taught from the pulpits. The foundation of that theology in most cases is unknown by the hearer, primarily due to a complacent form of following which does not demand a personal responsibility for the personal study. A false teaching can become foundational to the belief of the hearer due to ignorance.

How dependent are we upon the words of man more than the Word of God itself? This is demonstrated in the amount of time that the layperson is spending in the Word of God, searching out truths for themselves. Ignorance continues to be our worst enemy.

An example of where the trend of theology has led is the Latin American theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, born in 1928 in Lima, Peru. Gutierrez is the author of the book, A Theology of Liberation, which is highly regarded in liberation studies. Gutierrez view of “anonymous Christian” is based on belief that “persons are saved if they open themselves to God and to others, even if they are not clearly aware that they are doing so.” His definition of saving faith is “an act of trust, a going out of one’s self, a commitment to God and neighbor, a relationship with others.” This form of theology places a view of a salvation that relies upon our service to others through forms of social emphasis. As necessary as it may be for us as Christians to help others, salvation is an act of grace that must not be confused or distorted as something earned through acts of kindness, but received only through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. If the substance of our salvation revolves around our acts in relation to others, then it would open doors for a more expanded form of Christianity based on the goodness of people.

I bring this example mainly due to the amount of influence that this form of theology has on our society today. If you were to ask a person that has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, if they feel that they would be saved from judgment, a very large percentage would identify themselves a good people who help when they see a need, and even believe in God. However, there is no better answer to this question than that given by Paul to the jailer in Acts 16:30-31, “And brought them out, and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” This is a far cry from the answer given by Gutierrez of the “anonymous Christian” who is saved “even if he/she does not know that they are doing so [in opening themselves to God and others].

We will visit this subject again in the future. However, this example of how theology will trend in the future is one that is connected to our times. It is a theology that depends on human beings to achieve their redemptive goals. The transformation of the individual through faith in Jesus Christ and the atonement is replaced with acts of goodness for a change in society.

Let me emphasize that the Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and now walks in light of that which he/she has received through Grace, does have a concern for the plight and pain felt by the community. As such, our hearts will move us to work and assist in helping others. However, our salvation depends upon one act, as Paul so clearly states in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Theology and the Role of Interpretation

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Theology is defined as the study of God. When theologians, or those that are involved in this area of study, communicate their findings, they do so from a point of interpretation. The correct place from which to base the interpretation should be the Scriptures. However, in the modern world in which we find ourselves, the practice of establishing areas of Scripture as non-conformist or even obsolete is gaining momentum and a new form of a so-called modern theology has gained ground.

The issue with a form of theology that moves away from Scriptural foundations is that it is free to be presented by the theologian based upon individual interpretation, which can be infected with assumptions and personal bias. In a quest to balance the theology with the modern viewpoints and political correctness, the focus of the study is presented not from a Biblical standpoint, and that which has been revealed through the inspiration of the Spirit (God Himself) to the writers of the Bible, but more of an apologetical theology is used to present a God who is more compatible to the modern day. A tolerable and loving God is the primary focus, while God’s holiness and righteousness, and the execution of the righteousness through justice, is secondary to the individual studies.

The fact is that we, as theologians, are not called to defend God, but to present the truth about His nature and attributes that is in agreement with the Biblical interpretation. In the quest to present a modern God who is a loving friend to all religions, and has chosen to reveal Himself in different forms to different people, the very nature of the God that we serve has been mis-represented and a corrupted form of the Gospel has taken over the message of redemption.

It is our responsibility to present the truth of not only God’s love, but also His righteousness. His does not share His Glory, nor does He tolerate unholiness. The revelation has been given to us in the Scriptures. Our interpretation of that revelation must be true to the Word, regardless of its lack of popularity and modern correctness.

Because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16) Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28,29) The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring his judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame. Zeph. 3:5

E. G. Robinson in Christian Theology, wrote: “The one all-inclusive aim of Biblical Christianity is holiness, . . . but personal holiness will be the one absorbing and attainable aim of man, only as he recognizes it to be the one preeminent attribute of God”.

In theology and the role of interpretation, we will reflect an understanding of God based in what we see in the mirror, if we move away from what has been written in the Scriptures about God’s true attributes.

 

The Source of Our Confidence

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It goes without saying that we are living at a time of great uncertainty around the world. That which used to provide confidence and assurance seems to be dissipating, creating a void in the lives of those that held on to what now can be seen as a false sense of security. With this uncertainty there has also come a time in which anything that in anyway is connected to, or  mentions God has come under attack. It may seem as if this something that nobody saw coming, but the reality of it is that it has been progressing forward at a very rapid rate during this past century. Anytime that Christianity is compromised for the benefit of progress, you are left with an incomplete form of Christianity that is unable to withstand the forces that are in control at this time. Never has their been such a loosening of morality and a direct attack to the foundation of the family similar to what is being carried out today. These have been strategic steps taken during a time when the church has been distracted with its own internal debates and divisions.

Just recently it was reported that a man was arrested outside of a Department of Motor Vehicle building in the United States for opening a Bible and preaching to those that waited on line. This of itself could be irreprehensible if it was not for the actual wording of the violation in referring to the preaching as a protest. The defense on the part of the law makers was that a permit would have been provided for the protest, if one would have been applied for. Now, since when has the preaching of the Gospel been referred to as protest. We are now at a time when Christianity and the evangelizing of the lost has become another form of protest against the general consensus. Yet, Christians continue to live as if we have been stripped of all power. We now maintain a low profile in order to not bring attention to ourselves and avoid the calamity that taking a stand may bring. Now, this is occurring in a country that according to the past census considers itself primarily a Christian country.

You may be asking yourself, what does this has to do with theology? I will answer this, as I do not want anyone to view the TheologyExchange as just another political or social blog. That is not my purpose in creating the TheologyExchange. So, let’s connect the begining of this post with theology.

How has sin impacted our society? To answer this question you must first understand what sin is. Unless you have understanding of sin, then how can you measure how it has changed the direction of our society and its impact on the actual church. Sin, per se, is a theological conception. Only through the acceptance of the existence of a Holy God can sin and its reality be understood. Without sin and its implications then grace would be non-existent, for why then would it be needed. And as we know, without grace how can we have hope. We can better understand sin by categorizing it into two areas: (1) ungodliness, and (2) unrighteousness. The first, ungodliness, deals with our relationship with God. It is directly connected to a place of arrogance and/or self-glorification. The second, unrighteousness, deals with our relationship with each other. Unrighteousness is understood more as an untrue or unjust dealing between man and his neighbor. Now, unrighteousness is a direct result of ungodliness. The rejection of God is then the foundation of sin.

In summarizing what was said at the beginning of this post, we can then understand that the condition of our society has been brought about by a condition of sin. This through the direct rejection of God and His existence. This has lead to an ungodly society. One that represents itself arrogantly as not in need of a God figure. So it feeds its self-glorification by the dismissal of God from all of its dealings. We are then left with the second component of sin which is transferred directly to the society. That is the unrighteousness that prevails throughout people who have been led by the ungodliness of its leaders and representatives. This has created a false sense of security and confidence in those things that feed into the positions of ungodliness and unrighteousness. In other words, the actions of a people whose sinful position dictates and influences the decisions made by that society. The temporary gains only serve to fuel the desires to do away more with those things related to God, as man attempts to stand on his own by turning its back on his own Creator, to the point of proclaiming the non-existence of God.

So now that the temporary gains are beginning to come to an end, man does not turn against God, since He has already been rejected, but turns against his fellow man in a war of the fittest. Confidence is now placed in our abilities to hold on to those temporary gains. Yet we as Christians should not be fooled by the temporary, since we are expectant of the eternal. Our confidence must be in God for only then can godliness and righteousness defeat the sin that is currently showing its true fangs to those who chose the temporary over the eternal by rejecting a relationship with their Creator. The church should stand firm and not entertain the perception that it may have a shared interest with this world. Remember, we are in this world, but not of this world. We cannot regulate our beliefs  in order to please those outside of the church, as if we have somethings in common, for what does light have in common with darkness, but to shine in it and eliminate the other. Let us continually be a beacon that will never be ashamed to stand in defense of our Christian principles, by being faithful to the true source of our confidence, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and the foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lust of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25)

They Are Without Excuse

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Man has chosen to draw a line with regards to those things that are to be accepted beyond the laws of nature. The inclinations towards a humanist perspective on life continues to influence man’s ability to accept that which stands outside of logical and philosophical reasoning. It is the advancements of man that continue to feed and adjust the epistemology (or theory of knowledge), by which our claims are measured and the basis or grounds for interpretations given. For example, the claims made in Scripture by Israel is not grounded on establishing an affirmation for the existence of God,  but rely on a believe in God through self-revelation to the Patriarchs and Prophets. Belief in God is structured on a responsive reaction to an initiative established by God, and not based on investigations led by human reasoning and origin.  However, today this has been restructured in order to have God be the object of study through natural scientific comparison and not through self-revelation. The argument then becomes, that if there is an argument for the existence of God, then it must be aligned with the natural laws of existence.

It does bypass man that God is self-existent. By this I mean that God’s existence is not based on external circumstances. Because He has always been and is, as Creator, He is the very substance by which all existence came to be. This being the case, then a natural scientific study for the existence of God would be based on matter created by the very God who’s existence it is attempting to prove. This would only serve to emphasize the limitations established in natural matter, which can only serve to provide a partial fingerprint of its creator.

However note that natural matter (the things that have been made) does provide a clear look to God’s eternal power and Godhead, providing a view of His invisible nature and attributes.  This is clearly stated in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

The issue with a natural scientific study is not in obtaining the proof for the very existence of God, it is when the study logically attempts to move further than what nature has provided by moving passed the cause and effect of nature and attempting to place God within the confines of natural laws. Again, God is creator and nature is created. To attempt to study nature in an attempt to study God is a reversed order in which that which has been created will be limited by a limitless Creator. That which has been created is only a beginning to understanding the nature of God and removes all excuses for the argument of His existence. That which has been created is subject to its Creator.

Calvin goes on to explain it in this way, “No idea can be formed of God without including his eternity, power, wisdom, goodness, truth, righteousness, and mercy. His eternity appears evident, because he is the maker of all things – his power, because he holds all thing in his hands and continues their existence – his wisdom, because he has arranged things in such an exquisite order – his goodness, for there is no other cause than himself, why he created all things, and not other reason, why he should be induced to preserve them – his justice, because in his government he punishes the guilty and defends the innocent – his mercy, because he bears with so much forbearance the perversity of men – and his truth, because he is unchangeable.”

Calvin concludes with the following, “Having forsaken the truth of God, they turned to the vanity of their own reason, all the acuteness of which is fading and passes away like vapour”.

In conclusion, man attempts to rationalize the existence of God within the study of nature, only to be led by their own reason into a blindness to the truth found in the very testimony of nature itself. This self-imposed ignorance does not excuse them from the very fact that nature itself claims the very attributes of our creative God that holds all things in the palms of His hands.

How do you define God?

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I begin with the understanding of the limitations that we are under in order to truly exhaust an answer to this question in this type of forum. However, this being said, we do have enough from which to built on in creating a fundamental understanding to this question and how our theology is built.

All theological perspectives are developed from within the foundation, yet individual answer to this question. In all expressed terms, in order to present the arguments of theology (the study of God: theo+logy) assumptions must first be created in the mind of the theologian as to the very nature and position of (God) matter. The categories of this assumptions being labeled by presuppositions established in the philosophical or Biblical views.

It is possible for an agreement to exist between a philosophical and a Bible viewpoint relating to the existence and nature of God. However, the philosophical will always be lacking in trying to understand through logic the transcendence and immanence of God.

An early 1900’s Dictionary (White’s Modern Dictionary of the English Language) gave a simple yet conscientious definition of the word God. White’s definitions is, The Supreme Being.

A 2008 copyright edition of Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, defines God is the following manner:

1. any of various beings conceived of as supernatural, immortal, and having special powers over the lives and affairs of people and the course of nature;

2. an image that is worshiped;

3. a person or thing deified or excessively honored and admired;

4. in monotheistic religions, the creator and ruler of the universe, regarded as eternal, infinite, all-powerful, and all-knowing;

Take into consideration the definitions given by these two dictionaries in a space of 100 years, and you can see why theological views may differ when a definition for God can evolve to a modern definition pointing to 4 possible applications. The Supreme Being of the early 1900s has become a possible alternative meaning in the early 2000. Why is this important? If the object of the study can evolve in definition, then the research methods and viewpoints will only follow.

An effort has been made in these times to provide alternative meanings, where man is free to choose a definition that will align with his own personal beliefs. Instead of beginning with God in our theology, we begin with our own methodology and presuppositions; fit them into a preconceived and self-adequate definition of God, and finally build theological views and positions that are, what may be called, user-friendly. We end up with distorted views of God that are then passed along from generation to generation, each readjusting the building blocks used to fit the current mood of society.

Is the theology of today a representation of the theology presented by the early church? Or better asked, Is our view of God today the same as that found in the Bible? You may believe that God is unchanging, as indicated in Scripture, however, the very study of God (theology) continues to evolve and adjust to the sentiment of the people and times they live in. The reality is that as our theology changes, so does our perspective of the God we know.

It is then of great concern for anyone who is involved in theological studies to measure there results with the one thing that does not change, the Word of God. If we solely depend upon the opinions of men, then truly we take a risk of distorting our view of who God is to us, and transfer that distorted view to those who are willing to hear us. It is how we have come, as indicated above, to a point in our modern times of having multiple definitions available on God, and how we define Him.

When Tolerance Becomes A Compromise

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First let me say that the structure of Christianity is one that is based on exclusivity. Exclusivity comes from the idea of shutting out other considerations, or better defined as excluding all but what is specified. The position of exclusivity is one that is radical and leaves no room to be negotiated.

In Christianity a foundational position is that no other religion or belief structure is true other than what has been centered on the person of Jesus the Christ. Take a look at these statements made by Jesus: “I am the bread which came down from heaven”; “I am the bread of life”; “I am from him, and he hath sent me”; “I am the light of the world”; “I am from above”; “I proceedeth forth and came from God”; “I am the door”; “I give unto them eternal life”; “I and my Father are one”; “I am the resurrection and the life”; “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. Notice the focus on the “I” found throughout these statements. In just these few statements, Jesus was establishing the exclusivity for eternal life to be found only in the Christian faith. He is the only way to eternal life. All other ways are excluded and this is exclusivity.

Now, tolerance comes from the idea of recognizing and respecting others beliefs and practices without sharing them. There are many religions in the world that have established their own systems of beliefs and practices, and in religious tolerance, we are asked to recognized and respect each one. However, the Christian faith presents an exclusive position. What tolerance can be found between darkness and light, life and death, or salvation and condemnation. The principles of Christianity separate our beliefs and practices to direct contradictions found in all other religious systems. However, it is love and not tolerance that the Christian has been told to reflect. We are told to love our neighbors. This is to be accomplished without compromising our beliefs.

Can Christianity co-exist with other religious beliefs? Of course. We do so everyday. We are instructed to do so in love. However, in Christianity there is not an equality shared with other belief systems. We do not compromise truth. The fact is that there is only one way and all others lead down the path of condemnation. We do not compromise for the sake of unity, but show compassion through love for the masses that have erred in choosing a path that is not centered on Jesus, the Son of God. All roads do not lead to God.

The Modern Shift

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There is no question that there has been a modern shift found in today’s theological circles. We have ventured into a time where man does not keep up with theology. Instead, theology must keep up with man and must meet man’s approval, if it is to be accepted as having met the right to be included in theological purposes.
When religion is socialized into a cultural phenomena, then the shifts is society through cultural adjustments also affects the theological views that surround that religion. Taking this into account, when you extract the unchanging spiritual truths found in Scripture, to make the religion fit the relevance of a modern society, you fall into an unstable reality of who or what God is. This in turn, makes the study of that God view a shifting and unpredictable theology that adjusts itself to fit the current modern viewpoints in the society. Theology then becomes an assortment of opinions based on social translations. Acceptance by a world society is what becomes key in the inclusion of a theological viewpoint in religion today. Any contradictions between these modern day theological viewpoints and the Scriptural text is explained away as the necessary growth of knowledge for understanding God and His relevance to the changing times. The personal experience and application does away with a structured unity that is to be found in a corporal body of many believers whose mission should be to become one under the truth found in the Bible, and not fall into an individualistic method of finding God or theological truths that is acceptable by all under religious toleration.
The truth is that a secular and contemporary culture will establish a secular and contemporary theology to follow. The fact is that if we remove the permanence of the message and application of Scripture and make it only partially relevant to a secular and contemporary society, then we have transformed that theology from its original purpose and meaning. Today’s religion adopts its theology by maintaining its central message of salvation, regardless of the foundational mechanism required to obtain that salvation found in a secularized and tolerant theology which allows itself to be interpreted or manipulated to fit a society that abhors the exclusivity of Scripture and the truths found therein.