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Below is something I wrote yesterday but did not want to post it after I finished. I was terribly dis-satisfied in that for the sake of keeping it short as a blog is mostly expected to be, I’m not able to develop each thought with as much clarity as I feel it needs to be effective. With that said what I have presented below is a fast paced string of multiple thoughts which really bears slow, patient, and thoughtful consideration. After sleeping on if I should post this or not, I figured “eh, it’s not as crazy as Ezekiel, so why not. -It’s only a blog post from a little unknown ministry.” So great or terrible, just let the chips fall, learn, and move on. 

Devaluing Theology

is causing division

As I’m here on the Southwest side of San Antonio, I’m thankful that we dodged a bullet in hurricane Harvey though my heart is aching for my fellow brother’s and sisters walking though the devastation this storm is bringing to our coast. As precautions, many places have closed down in anticipation of what the massive rainfall will bring. So with this extra time on my hands has come some much needed rest, and stirred inspiration for a couple issues. Issues I present often and take ownership of within my small sphere in the body of Christ: unity, and value for theology. Either of those may be a no-brainer for some, but are quite a stumbling block for others. In the below paragraphs I’d like to take up something that causes great harm: devaluation of theology. I’m compelled to look at two ways it’s devalued because of how they each cause much disunity, misunderstanding and assumption-based broad-brush name-calling.

I used to value unity with respect to uniformity only because frankly, unity terrified me. (Now for those who make distinction between “unity” & “oneness” please allow me to use “unity” as both here as that is what I mean). Now, as someone who values and preaches practical holiness and devoted intimacy with God, the thought of unity scared me because I didn’t know how to sacrifice biblical standards of righteousness (nor did I want to). I don’t believe we can point to a biblical example of when righteous standards were lowered for the sake of unity. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Phinehas (Numbers 25) comes to mind as an example of one who burned with God’s quality of zeal for holiness and was credited righteousness for all generations (Psalms 106:30-31). The world has given us an example of a faux unity that produces lawlessness and cold love (Matthew 24:12). But God is not so powerless so as to compromise His holiness in bringing about the answer to Jesus’ prayer: to make us one (John 17:20-24). Therefore, there really is a unity between denominations and streams of non-denominational groups of christians that is not one that fosters compromise, but righteousness and love!

In speaking to my brothers & sisters:

One of the biggest things (besides preferences for outward forms) that divide us is ideas. Many times we get caught up in our own preferences for exterior forms that we lose sight of the substance, clinch to our limited view of the Body of Christ and paint other groups we don’t understand with broad brushes, (many times devoid of understanding). I really do love many church settings, from liturgical high-church, to the casual yet serious reformed, to the charismatics, to home church movements… I love Christ’s body -its so much fun to see. There can be so much life, love and joy in liturgy, in serious bible teaching, in the mystical move of the spirit, and in simple fellowship. On the flip side though, there can be dead mens bones inside any whitewashed form: dignified-liturgical and hyped-up-charismatic alike (and all in between). I’ve been witness to life and death in a variety of settings.

Our ideas about God shape our language, and many times the way we speak divides us because our ideas lack perspective. We charismatics tend to speak and talk like we have a monopoly on Holy Spirit and His work in the earth, we paint many other groups as being “religious,” and that just is not true in a lot of cases. (FYI: Jesus didn’t rebuke Pharisees for “religion,” but for hypocrisy…) … Because christians are historically reactionary, we tend to react to err with err. And one of our err’s as charismatics has become a complete devaluing (in a number of circles) of theology, doctrine, tradition, and reasoning. This greatly alarms me because without theology (the study of God; ‘Theos’ not ‘theory’) we can be lead anywhere doctrinally. -and then how can we discern the difference between a devil manifesting vs. a move of Holy Spirit? Where’s the grounding on the Word (or a history in the scripture) to have our senses trained to discern? (Hebrews 5:14) -more than an intuitional feeling, but a rootedness on the word where true discernment can flourish as it was designed to. Reasoning and faith are not opposed to each other, yet we’ve made it out to be that they are, and it greatly harms our witness.

As an example: I enjoy going out to witness and preach with teams from all around our city. These groups are mostly made up of nondenominational congregations and some AG as well. There have been many occasions that I have been utterly shocked and heart-broken at how ill-equipped so many are to share the gospel within our midst. I remember observing (and feeling helpless to participate) as one particular team went around and around presenting the gospel as they saw it. -trying to press a depressed drunken homeless man into accepting Jesus but just left him in confusion…  He would even say he was confused, but there was no ability to reason in the scriptures like Paul (Acts 17:2). One would say “God wants to bless you, you just got to believe…” another: “You need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get a job…” another: “Just give God a try…” and another “Jesus accepts you as you are, you don’t have to change…” really? What role does repentance play in conversion?? … and yet another: “you just need to believe your identity in Christ…” Wait? What?! “Believe your identity in Christ” to a man dead in His sin and trespass against the Holy? … He wasn’t bad, he was dead, there is no identity in Christ until a true conversion via repentance has taken place.

You may find me a bit nit-picky, but what understanding was planted in his soul to lead him to Christ’s salvation and from eternal damnation? -if he were to be left in that state? You may think this is a non-issue, but did not Jesus rebuke leaders for concealing the entrance into the kingdom? -“Blind guides” He called them. (If you’re wondering, there was a happy ending to the story after the dust settled).

Having this foundation, I’d like to present one of the biggest challenges to the church I see from my vantage point, having had my feet and thoughts in many places:

The devaluing of theology.

I’m going to bring up two areas where this is the case. -And it’s always easy to “hear” a word for someone else, I.E. “my spouse should be here to hear this, this is really for them… they’d learn a lot if they would pay attention…” Don’t do that, this is for you:

Valuing theology enough to pursue it and not make fun of it and dismiss it (a vital part of the pursuit of God): This is a very big challenge for the nondenominational world. We have so many groups who use the title (or “non-title”) that a most critical challenge is put upon the nondenominational community and few realize it: it is the search for true/pure doctrine. But here’s the tragedy, so many in these streams have successfully postured a generation to reject what some call “mental gymnastics” (theology and reasoning). They make fun of theology and dismiss it in general ways without any clarity, all to prop up their sermon point or an experience. The value in our circles is put upon simplicity, but please allow wisdom to make an urgent appeal to you:

“How long ye simple ones will you love simplicity? … Turn to my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words know to you.” ~ Proverbs 1:22-23

It is especially difficult in the nondenominational part of Christ’s body to be secure (knowledgable and articulate) on what we actually believe and why we believe it. We take for granted that the man of God is only speaking truth all the time. Because we have a little more “excitement” than the “religious” crowd we think we got it all. We have many diverse groups that tend to fixate on one biblical principal and teach that principal as the whole kingdom… (forget the phrase missing the forest for the trees… we struggle to see the other trees at the moment because we love our one tree so much). We get a puzzle piece and assume its the whole picture… And on the phrase “full-gospel:” I can’t think of a more divisive and alienating one-liner in all of Christendom: From the outside looking in, “full-gospel” appears as though (we assume) they think they are the only ones with all the answers; from the inside is robs people from searching for more because the unspoken assumption is that there is no more to learn, so many don’t press in for more… (Like Paul in Philippians 3).

We knock the denominational part of Christ’s body but something they have going for them is they know what they believe. The creeds & catechisms yes can become rote, but they are clear on their beliefs. We don’t have creeds or catechisms and this actually sets us at quite a disadvantage. Yes Churches have a statement of faith because it’s required for tax-exempt status, but do you know what your church’s statement of faith is? We’re flooded with so much diverse teachings, books, and devotionals that there is not much wide-spread clear understanding. Much teaching is inconsistent, but we lack the nobility of Acts 17:11 to notice or care, therefore we value the mystical side and reject the reasoning side of things. If I may, I beg you (if you fall into this category), to stop calling what you don’t understand “religious.” -We’ve made cuss words out of theology, religion, doctrine, and tradition… but all those words are used favorably in scripture. We must be vigilant and mighty in the scriptures.

We cannot worship in spirit and in truth with out theology.

D.M. Lloyd Jones said of the phrase “learned Christ” in Ephesians 4:20: “… learning of doctrine and theology, is not only important, it’s essential. A man cannot be a christian without doctrine; he does not know what he believes otherwise…”

And now to finish the quote in transitioning to the other side of the coin: “… but you can have it in your mind, you can have it in your theory, but as such it will be of no value to you at all; it is outside you, it has not moved you, it has not gripped your life, it has not changed you, it has not made you more conformable to the pattern and example of the Lord Jesus Christ… A mere knowledge of doctrine, which does not lead to new life is of the devil… A personal knowledge of the Savior, is the end of all doctrine. And if an increasing knowledge of doctrine does not bring us to an increasing knowledge of the Person Himself, there is something radically wrong.”

Now to briefly touch this other area of concern I see. A different type of devaluing theology of sorts. One where we take for granted that it’s already sorted out for us… It is rooted in a holy discontent, but miss directed nonetheless, in my opinion. There is a generation that sees through the epidemic of superficiality: shallow (non-equipping) Sunday services, and knows there’s more. I think that’s great, but many have bought into the idea that ‘the more’ is in reading theology books… so instead of giving themselves to scripture and the pursuit of the knowledge of God through His word, they let systematic theology and their favorite (free/affordable) commentary exegete scripture for them. Therefore rarely coming to the word without a preconceived set of perimeters to filter everything through.

This I believe is equally as dangerous because it is so easy to mistake the intellectual high of learning from someone else’s theology for real personal growth in Christ. -to really feel like you’re soaring in the scriptures when instead you’re soaring in Calvin, Aquinas, and others. A symptom of this is that we feel more equipped to be doctrinal deputies for Jesus rather than worshipers of Jesus. One of the mistakes that many young people as myself make is that we will read through a book that took a lifetime of experience to write, and instead of seeing the invitation to pursue something for decades, we take ownership of the information like we’ve accomplished some great thing without building a consistent history in The Lord… the outward forms may be different, but there really is no substantive difference between that and ‘grave-soaking’ (for those familiar with the term). -Really? -what’s the difference? Both are a lazy grab for something you didn’t pay the price for.

If you feel more deputized than astonished by theology, you’re doing it wrong.

I plead in closing, search for and fall in love with Jesus through the scriptures that testify about Him. Not in experience alone, not in books alone, but a real coming to His feet to let Him teach you with His word. Remember John 17:3 -Jesus’ personal definition of eternal life. (If anyone gets to define their own terms, it’s the Lamb who was slain, and worthy to receive blessing, honor, power, glory, and dominion forever). The one with the two-edged sword coming out of His mouth said eternal life is to know God… This does not happen without the mystical realities of the spirit realm (which is more real than the natural), and it does not happen without the faculties of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. We need the Word and the Spirit. There is much unity here and where I truly believe the church is headed. Many are already living in this “radical middle,” and before this is all said and done, we will answer Jesus’ prayer to be one.

To get on board with that answered prayer, we must lay our broad brushes (that we think are swords) down, and value theology in a way that acknowledges we don’t know everything about God. And let that provoke us to search it out together in scripture. -Amen

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 There is an entrusting from Heaven of the gospel. One where we transition from parrots who can repeat information into witnesses who orient their lives to draw near to God and experience His holiness & eternity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2 that Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and reveals them to spiritual men… These three “H’s” are a must for those desiring to be “continually filled” as it says in the book of Acts:

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