The Weaponization of Theology


I don't know about you, but I am tired of fighting with people from different theological perspectives.  For some reason, over the past several centuries it seems that we have taken honest differences in interpretation of faith and practice and turned them into weapons.

Somewhere in the fog of theological argumentation, individuals have risen up and taken discussions between brothers and sisters and turned them into implements used to exclude, wound, and separate in general.

It turns out that we have been disagreeing from the very beginning.  Out of those early disagreements came some of the most important documents of beliefs in the Church's history (usually called creeds).  The questions was (and still is): what are the core beliefs one needs to have to be considered a Christian? 

They came to several important decisions around that.  They generally include the humanity and deity of Christ, the nature of the Trinity, the role of the Father and Spirit, and the necessity of Jesus for salvation.  That, along with a couple more, is what all denominations, sects, and factions share.

What is always interesting to me is the host of "hot button" issues that are not in there.  Just name your favorite, and look for it. You will most likely not find it there. 

That means something beautiful:  those things have no bearing on whether or not someone is a Christian, and after we disagree we can work together in service of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

That's the key.  My heart is that we would take our theological swords to Jesus and have him turn them into something that is useful and helpful.  I want Jesus to take my theological distinctives and use them to minister to the world and help me to see that he is using those "other people" to minister through their distinctives as well.

 "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Isaiah 2:4

From: MORF

Running off at the Mouth with God: Theology and Practice

Prayer Meeting, First Stone by George Bellows (1882-1925)

Prayer Meeting, First Stone by George Bellows (1882-1925)

I have been doing a good bit of deep thinking lately prompted by some tough situations I have encountered as well as great questions I have been asked.  I have returned in each instance to one of my most deeply held beliefs:  theology informs practice.  Or put in a non-seminary way: What we believe ABOUT God tells us HOW we do what we do as a church and Christians.

Early in my ministry I had a pastor tell me that I souldn't have any silence in my prayers when leading the congregation because it might make some people feel uncomfortable and because it sounded weird on the radio.  I was totally caught off guard by the comment at the time and, trusting his experience, tried my best to plan the prayers so all the time was filled with words.

After a couple of weeks of the most uncomfortable public prayers of my life, I took a step back and reconsidered the validity of that advice.  The pastor was basing his up-front praying practice on the demands of radio and making everyone comfortable.  It seemed clear that that neither radio nor comfort was (or is) a valid criteria for how we pray in worship or elsewhere, but what was?

After a bit of pondering it came to me in a flash of insight: the WAY we pray should be determined by our BELIEFS about prayer!  Now the question was clear: what did I believe about prayer?

I developed a couple of specific beliefs about prayer during that time:

  • Prayer is meant to be two-way.  We are to talk AND listen which means, for me, that any prayer without silence (listening) is violating one of my key beliefs about prayer.
  • Like any conversation, prayer can have many effects including comfort, confession, revelation, venting, expressing love, conviction, etc. which means that focusing on a single outcome all the time artificially limits the scope and purpose of prayer.
  • Prayer should accurately express your heart and mind to God. However, when encountering the divine, your own words can fail you especially when you are trying to compose them off the top of your head.  Though prayer should be genuine, sometimes the most genuine thing you can do is to pre-write a prayer or read one written by someone else.  When words fail, we can use the words of amazing writers and poets that have gone before to help us out.

So, I started pausing in those prayers again and would even read a prayer from time to time.  Not out of rebellion, but out of a commitment to the theology of prayer I had developed.

That is what I hope to do over and over again in my life and ministry.  I do not want to solve problems with practical solutions that violate by beliefs about God and Christianity.  When I encounter a problem, issue or concern, it is my dream that I would check the disfunctional item first against my beliefs and then proceed to work on a solution that reflects those beliefs or clarifies an incorrect one.