Thursday, March 29, 2007

Does Your Theology Honor God?

Does your theology honor God? By asking this question, I do not mean, do you have The Right Theology, the one that objectively honors God by having all its "i"s dotted and its "t"s crossed and will at the Judgment be decreed The Final Truth about God. What I mean is, do you honor God by your interest in theology? Is your desire to read and write about it motivated by a love for God and a desire to honor Him?

This question has been prompted by my on-again, off-again conversations with Timotheos, a Reformed brother. He and I have gotten into some comment discussions on Peter Lumpkins's blog, as well as on this one and via email. During one of these discussions, I was quite moved by recognizing that Timotheos deeply cared about what he was writing about--that his theology was motivated, more than anything else, by his desire to honor God. I felt at that moment that even if I could have served up a definitive rebuttal to his position, I would not have desired to do so: it would have been robbing Timotheos of something that was precious to him and contributed to his appreciation for God. Timotheos was just as concerned to honor God by defending God's thorough and unasked-for transformation of His elect, as I was to honor God by defending His mercy and genuine offer of forgiveness to all of humanity. At that moment, the specifics that we were debating paled into insignificance compared with the desire we both had to honor God by what we believe about Him.

It is not always this way with theological debate. We are all too often motivated by the desire simply to Be Right--to be proven right, to show our superiority over the other person's argument, to defeat our opponent in verbal battle. Do we hold to a theological system because we truly believe that it honors God, or do we hold to it because it's the most logical, or the most experiential, or the most contemporary, or the most rooted in history and tradition, or the most evangelistic, or the most strongly opposed to the theological tradition we like the least? We can hold any theological position--even the correct one--for all kinds of wrong motivations. Ultimately, I think God cares more about why we believe what we believe than He does about the precise specifics of what we believe. It seems to me rather obvious that all of us are going to have some of our positions, er, adjusted in eternity. Probably much of what we squabble about will prove to be a false framing of the question. Meanwhile, the real issue will have been, were we honoring God with our theology?

It would be reasonable to wonder, at this point, why I bother taking theological positions at all. What does it matter exactly what we believe, as long as we have a heart that desires to honor God? Well, in a broad sense, content does matter: we can't be honoring God if we're honoring the wrong god. And in a narrower sense, Jesus did say that the Great Commandment was to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Especially for those of us who have that bent, loving God with our minds involves pondering these things, trying to make sense of what the Bible tells us about God. And it's inevitable that we should come to some conclusions, even if they're tentative, and end up in discussions with others who have come to differing conclusions.

But ultimately, the specifics of our conclusions matter less than our desire to honor God through them. One thing I know about my brother Timotheos: he loves God with all his heart, and his conception of God contributes to that love. My conception of God contributes to my love for Him. Maybe the real challenge is to love God, and to love one another, more than we love our conceptions.

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  1. I can't add anything except my wholehearted agreement. Fantastic post.

  2. Keith,

    Amen to bob2's evaluation. We need more fellow bloggers and commenters who make honoring God with their words their goal.

    Grace. With that, I am...


  3. Keith: Amazing wisdom and graciousness in this post. How blessed I am to know you. selahV

  4. Keith, very wise and discerning. Words I know I need to remember when surfing the net!

  5. SelahV and Mary, thank you both for your kind comments. I hope I live up to my own words here in future discourses!

  6. Oh, and Bob and Peter, thank you too. I was sure I had responded to you (that is, y'all, for Peter's benefit), but for some reason that comment seems to have disappeared.

  7. Keith: the Straw Man ate it. hee hee. selahV

  8. The Straw Man, huh? Well, he'll be okay once the Wizard gives him his diploma. ;-)