I’ve been wrong in my theology in the past. I am also wrong in my theology now. How do I know that? I know because the Bible is the product of an infinite God, and I am a finite person. As Paul exclaimed:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God? How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33)
This is not to say that we cannot search the Scripture and grow in knowledge and understanding of the Truth it contains. Rather, as finite beings we neither live long enough, nor have the mental capacities to fully comprehend all of the truths contained in the Bible. The very fact that I am still studying and learning proves that my theology is incomplete; by God’s grace, however, my theology will continue to develop and grow ever closer to the Truth. The corollary to recognizing the fact of my incomplete theology is that it must also be wrong in some areas as well.
Against that background I hope that you will understandably affirm my claim that your theology is also wrong – somewhere. Furthermore, the theology of every person who has ever written an article for the Wisconsin Christian Newspaper is also wrong – somewhere. The problem is that none of us knows what parts of our theology are wrong. If we knew where we were wrong we would simply correct those beliefs. After all, who willingly holds on to a belief they know is wrong? Is it possible to believe something that you know is wrong?
How can we identify those areas of errant theology and correct them? I like how I heard someone frame the issue when discussing theology with others: they will often ask two questions, the first one being: If you were wrong in some area of your understanding of the Bible, would you want to know it?
Our first impulse might be to answer with an emphatic “Of course!” But admitting to being wrong can be uncomfortable. It’s one thing to admit that we don’t know everything. But quite another matter to have a specific item identified and proven to be wrong, because now we are responsible for that knowledge – now we must change. And change isn’t always easy or comfortable. Let’s assume that we all want to know if and where we are wrong in our theology.
The second question is, “How are you going to find out?” That’s the kicker! If you agree with my opening paragraphs, then you acknowledge that our individual theologies are at least partially wrong – but how do we find out where our theology is wrong? Here is where things can get dicey. Do we listen to more sermons from our pastor, read more books from our favorite author, or spend more time discussing the Bible with our trusted circle of fellow Christians? All of these are beneficial and have their places in our spiritual lives, but if these sources have helped to shape our current theology, isn’t it also true that they’ve contributed to shaping our wrong theology? I tell people that if they agree completely with their pastor’s or favorite author’s theology that simply means that they are both wrong in the exact same areas of their theology. Think about it. If both your pastor and you have a finite, limited understanding of God’s Word, then you are both wrong in certain areas of your theology.
So how do we break free from this theological rut? May I suggest that we must interact with theologies that differ from our own? By “differing theologies” I don’t mean theologies as in Hinduism, Mormonism or Islam, but differing theologies within Christianity. Do you believe that the gifts of the Spirit are not for Christians today? Do you lean more to a Calvinist or to an Armenianist view point. Read a scholarly work by a respected theologian who disagrees. If you are correct, your theology should be able to counter his/her points. Even if you are correct, you will have gained a better understanding of the issue from both perspectives and will likely have identified and corrected some weak areas in your position.
This is iron sharpening iron. Unless the steel is brought into contact with the knife, no sharpening will take place. Likewise, unless we expose ourselves to differing theologies, our personal theology will not be sharpened. If we limit ourselves to our safe and comfortable theological sources we also limit the sharpening process. While we may all agree, we will all have the same wrong theology. We will become like matching butter knives: unified in appearance, but unable to cut. Unable to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Obviously, all views cannot be correct; therefore, someone has to be wrong! But who, and on which points? If you simply pick your favorite prophetic teacher and stick with his theology, you will simply both be wrong in the same areas. Interaction with different views, however, allows the sharpening process to take place, both in the prophetic community as a whole and in your own personal theology. One of many purposes, or byproduct, of the Wisconsin Christian Newspaper is to present different views within the Christian community in order to promote the sharpening process. Something I have told the people in the Church I pastor is, “I don’t tell you what to think, I give you something to think about, and never be afraid to read or listen to any teaching, but always check it out against what the Bible says, and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.”
I have also found that those who say they only read the Bible, and never read or listen to the opinion of others, are not the people to listen to, because their theology is wrong also – somewhere.
The bottom line is that every author ever printed on FB is wrong somewhere, so read it at your own risk. On the other hand, unless we take the risk of exposing ourselves to differing theologies, we are destined to become butter knives: conformed to a standard, but dull.
~ Ted Nelson
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