I’ve been asking myself this week why I am theologically conservative. That might not have been the question at the top of your list this week, but for some reason its at the top of my mine. By theologically conservative, I mean that I’m a bread and butter theology man…’regular’ evangelical theology does me just fine.
What does that mean? I believe in the absolute authority of the bible and that its the word of God, the trinity, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ both in terms of salvation and his divine and human nature. I believe in good old repentance, faith and generation being necessary for salvation. I believe that we can be holy and that we must. I believe in original sin, including a 6 day creation and a physical Adam. I believe that God’s grace is readily available at all times and in all places and is not restricted to any form. I believe that the power of pentecost is just as powerful today as it was 2000 years ago. I’m your typical evangelical. I believe in a literal Heaven, a literal Hell, a literal Judgement at the end of the world. I believe Jesus will come again and that we’ll reign with him. I firmly believe in the Great Commission and see the church’s role as one of completing that until Jesus declares it finished.
I debated two years through Bible college and a year through Training College for the ‘regular’ position. I’ve debated in almost every other setting you can think of too. I continually get perplexed by those who find it difficult to believe these things. For me, knowing God is not about questioning God, probing God, stretching God, bending God, accommodating God. Its about God questioning, probing, stretching, bending and making no accommodation for me other than being willing to hear my prayer.
I can present pretty much every theology contrary to the ‘regular’ so I’m by no means ignorant or uninformed. I am, however, narrow-minded. I seek to bring down any arguement that sets itself up against the gospel, just like old Paul said he intended to. You see, I’m just not willing to compromise what appears to be very clear from scripture. I’m narrow. I don’t claim to be a know it all, and I certainly don’t do any of my debating from an arrogant stand-point, regardless of what folks may think. I am simply jealous for God and his Word and I’ll defend it ’til the cows come home. If confidence is often mistaken for arrogance in this world, then I’m happy to be arrogant.
But….Why? I cannot think of any other than this: Jesus saved me from sin and Hell, both living and eternal through his obedient death on a Roman cross.
It was for me. By his stripes I am healed. By his blood I am redeemed. By his Spirit, I’m made clean.
Who am I to question that? I’ve only every asked God ‘why?’ once. I’ll don’t believe I’ll do it again.
I know for many its not that clear cut…but here is an invitation…and its an invitation to simple faith and trust: believe Him today.
14 thoughts on “I wonder…”
Passionate testimony, brother!Just one question…where does Conservative Evangelical theology come from?
Andrew, I do understand where you are coming from in this and on most of what you say I agree 100% on the theology. I don’t read your passion and belief as arrogance, rather I praise God for someone who has such a passionate testimony of theological faith.The problem is though that your final statement makes it sound as if you, and we evangelicals as a whole, have all the answers. It makes it sound as if the only real Christian faith is an evangelical one. This is where I must disagree! To my mind this writes off the experience and testimony of the many people I have the privilege of knowing from outside our evangelical flavoured experience. It writes off 1700 years of Christian experience because they didn’t have the truth like we did. It accepts no questioning, despite being given the authority to do so when Jesus calls us to love him with our mind as well as our body. It puts God firmly into the evangelical box and refuses to allow Him to operate outside those restrictions!
Martin: Where does it come from? I think what I was trying to say that my perspective on theology comes from the nature of my conversion. Secondly, I’d suggest it comes from a plain reading of scripture. We always interpret scripture, whenever we read it, but I think if we use the rule of thumb of scripture interpreting scripture, we avoid error. And please understand that it is error we must guard against as opposed to a different expression of spirituality. Graeme: I’d never suggest I have all the answers…quite the opposite, I think there are many questions that we will never be able to answer and its often foolishness to even begin. And actually, there are many ways in which ‘standard’ evangelical theology lacks a fullness…especially when it comes to the social aspect to the gospel, but then in the Army we have a healthy(ish) perspective there.I disagree that evangelical theology appeared in the last 300 years, however. The gates of Hell will never prevail against the church, so we must presume that there has always been a faithful remnant, not always in the form of the Romanised Catholic Church though.I’d say that authentic Christian experience is one which contains the basic theology I outlined in the main posting. This is, afterall, the main thrust of New Testament theology. I do consider ‘evangelical’ to be a tab for ‘regular’ Christian theology. I am not talking spirituality, I’m talking theology. Outside of this, we have all sorts of questionable belief and practice..I can expand on that if you want.God is, of course, not restricted by our boxes, but how often do we operate outside God’s box in terms of what is Christian orthodoxy? My thinking on this sprung out of my natural alarm bells ringing at a letter in last weeks Salvationist with regards to the existence of Hell and whether a loving God would send someone there or not.It is now that I have to confess that in terms of spiritual gifts, I am gifted in the area of prophecy and discernment. This is where there may be a perceived arrogance, because I can quite clearly testify that my spirit is quickened to error. That is not primarily a learned skill, but a supernatural awareness! Anyway, feel free to come back at any of that.AC
I think you sensed where I might be coming from by your response. However, where I wanted to explore was about how evangelical theology came about. People had to push hard to understand more about God to create that theology. Was Luther not deemed heretical?Do you see what I mean? If I say I’m comfortable with one type of theology but not with another because it’s pushing the boundaries then I’m missing the point of how my theology got to be where it is today.We can tie this in with the idea of progressive revelation, I think. What we understand today in our theology is miles on from what the early church thought and so on. Therefore to stop at one point just because we are happy with it seems to me a little bit presumptive (apologies if that sounds like a personal attack – it certainly isn’t meant to be!).I must admit that I can’t get beyond your statement about a plain reading of scripture – all of us think that…whichever theological argument we’re pushing! But I’d never call you arrogant…far from it, brother!
Martin Luther was deemed to be heretic (and many, many others with him) because he had stumbled on truth in the midst of rampant heresy in the Roman Church. Both with Luther and Calvin, there is the beginning of the commitement to ‘always reforming’ ensuring that the church never gets to the stage that the Roman Church managed to take Christianity.I’d suggest that what happened with the RC church was ‘progressive revelation’ which included the extra non-biblical but supposedly apostolically sound pronouncements of successive popes and elevated them to the position of scriptural truth.I’d suggest that with the likes of Luther and Calvin, it was not so much progressive revelation, but regressive revelation! Uncovering and defending truth that had previously been obscured. I’d argue that Luther didn’t push boundaries…he drew some boundaries back in.For example, he rejected the idea that you could pay a priest to do your confession for you. He rejected the idea that you could pay a priest to spend extra time to pray for your dead relatives so that you could get to heaven. He rejected the idea of the priesthood, affirming that we need no priest to stand between us and God other than the Great High Priest, Jesus.He declared that there was salvation outside the RC church, but more than that, that salvation was justification by faith. This is not something Luther discovered but rather reclaimed.I reject the idea that theology must move forward. The pages of the Old and New Testament have all the theology we need. Now, as I said, the way that is outworked may well be very different to early church method.We musn’t get false praxy mixed up with false doxy! Innit? AC(Did you like that bit of Bristol on the end there?)
I can accept that theology doesn’t necessarily have to move forward, although I would also say that I don’t believe that it must not move forward. However, the search that I’m on is for what is the proper outworking of that theology. So much of the outworking of conservative evangelical theology has become about ‘hate’. It seems to have become an outworking of intolerance and division instead of love! I cannot accept this message is the one in the Bible, as some do insist.One of the consequences of this is that I need to be sure that the theology behind the outworking is sound. I want to understand the reasons why such wide viewpoints can come out of the same theology. I want to be sure that my beliefs are built on a firm foundation.
I agree completely. There are several areas where theology has ‘allegedly’ moved forward, say for example, in the Charismatic Renewal. That is a positive move forward.But actually, when you analyse it, its actually ‘moving back’ and ‘reforming’ to authentic apostolic faith.I share your concerns which paint conservative evangelicalism as hateful. I don’t necessarily think that all evangelical theology works itself out in hate though. The wide viewpoints arise when love is lacking. When truth is not spoken in love, but in something else, that is where hate comes from. Authentic Christianity comes about with orthodoxy and orthopraxy…believing right and doing right. Orthopraxy doesn’t of course mean we all are clones of each other…there is plenty of scope for diversity in expression. I am just jealous that the true word is preached, lived, practiced, shared and upheld. We must be careful, however, not to get caught in the ‘tolerance’ trap. There are things that we cannot be tolerant of, simply because God is holy. There will always be things to stand against…human traffiking, drug abuse, domestic abuse, occultic practice, blasphemy, poverty.We should be no more ‘tolerant’ of a drug pusher than we are of a witch or a spiritualist. These things are abominations in the eyes of the Lord.The litmus test for Christianity, however, is to be brave enough to speak the truth in love. For what purpose? To bring correction, preach the gospel in order that people may be saved. Pure and simple.
Hey….I’d reccommend ‘How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth’ (by Fee and Stuart) as a primer on a sensible and plain reading of scripture.It is an intelligent and highly practical book, suggesting guidelines for health scriptural interpretation. you may have come across it before.
I get where you’re coming from, regarding the ‘obvious’ heresies of the RC church, but until people like Luther started to put their head ‘above the parapet’ theology would not have moved on. All I’m saying is that sometimes we need the ‘above the parapet’ guys to help us be sure about what we believe in. I would challenge you as to whether the evangelical church is still ‘always reforming’ – I think this is what we’re discussing right now!In many ways I agree with you that theology is more about getting back to understanding who God is, stripping back much of the detritus that has gotten in the way. However, I do feel that can be seen as ‘moving forward’ and not just in semantic terms! All I’m keen to do (as someone who would still see themselves as more evangelical than not) is that we don’t assume that we’ve got it all wrapped up in 2007.I think tolerance gets a bad reputation – and is used too often by some as a reason for rejecting good and well thought through developments in all sorts of fields. I think I sometimes get hung up on the concern that we over judge when it’s only God who can do the judging. I agree with your list, however, that we shouldn’t tolerate and would campaign (and am!) as loud and long as anyone else against them. Thanks for the book recommendation – but again I would challenge you on why that approach is any more “sensible and plain” than any other?
Brother, brother, brother….I shouldn’t need to give you a lesson in Biblical interpretation!1. If you are trying to apply a few verses, make sure to read them in their context. Make sure you understand which genre of text you are reading. This will determine how it is interpreted. Make sure that the old testament especially is view through a new testament lense.2. Discover what the verses were saying to the original hearers and why.3. What is the core message of the passage? 4. Apply the message. If it is not immediately a clear message, search other scripture. Scripture will not contradict scripture, it will only give a fuller picture.5. Obey.
I agree with your summary and especially about Biblical interpretation. However, no two people interpret it in exactly the same way even with the lens that you suggest for seeing it through!BTW I’ve just seen the letter you referred to in the Salvationist earlier in the comments, and can fully understand where you are coming from in the light of this particular discussion. On an aside did you see who wrote one of the other letters in that issue (31 March)?
There is most likely a different application of the same truth, but that process brings about the same eternal truth. See what I mean?On your letter in the Salvationist, yes. We’re still going on about who played what and how…the editor would probably say that he has to represent the whole spectrum of salvationist perspectives. Which in a sense is valid, I suppose.
erm…thanks for the lesson…not sure why you gave it…:) Perhaps I misunderstood your previous comment about “sensible and plain reading of scripture”. I thought you were advocating a particular theological approach over another…Graeme again highlights the problem of interpretation. You interpret through your lense, I mine and Graeme his…they may ore may not be the same but they are shaped by various factors – cultural, academic etc. All sorts! But thanks for the reminder of how to read scripture!!
I suppose in a sense I am advocating this approach as opposed to any other which would simply take a text and either dismiss it, or make it say something it doesn’t.What I suggested was a pattern for good exegesis. :o)