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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

A Quick Note About Theological Deafness

I was recently sent an article by Prophecy News Watch titled, "The Fading Light of Pop-Christianity." You can follow the link and read it for yourself. In general, I think they brush with a very wide stroke.

They make some legitimate points. I know very well that theological knowledge is rather thin these days, but I'd argue it's been thin for close to 2000 years. In the recent past, wearing a tie, not playing games on Sundays, and using a KJV Bible was erroneously thought a sign of intellectual and theological depth.

We've covered the vacuous nature of the latter. But lest I, too, brush with too wide a stroke, let me pull back and put some particulars to my concerns.

I often quote Dr. Bullinger's words in regard to the adopting of another's beliefs and calling it one's own:
The majority of mankind think that they think; they acquiesce, and suppose that they argue; they flatter themselves that they are holding their own, when they have actually grown up to manhood, with scarcely a conviction that they can call their own. So it was, and so it ever shall be.

This is one of the truest statements I have ever read. I came out of a very conservative Catholic parish and Archdiocese. It was rich with tradition, rules, discipline, training, and cathedrals. However, what mostly happened was the regurgitation of  thoughts from men like Aquinas or Augustine or of any number of Popes or Councils or cathecisms.

In a similar way, what passes for depth in many of today's conservative Evangelical (Fundamental) circles is simply the regurgitating of "accepted truths." Some of these truths may very well be truths, but often the holder has not sought them out for himself. He has not tested them. He has not put them through the crucible of reason and objection to truly make them his own.

Having spent the better part of the last seven years in a "contemporary" gathering and all the years before that (after coming out from Rome - where I served as altar boy, acolyte, and teacher - after a personal search for truth) in two very conservative and fundamental movements, I can say (admittedly anecdotally) that I saw childishness, vacuousness, simplicity, and error as much as I saw depth, fervor, spiritual thirst, and genuine faith in all.

I've seen people in the contemporary movement who don't know much, but they "love the Lord" (as defined by them). I've seen people in the conservative gatherings who don't know much either, but they wear a tie and listen to hymns. Neither gives me faith in their store of gold, silver, or precious stones (but that is for the Lord to judge, I am not the judge of another man's servant).

The one common thing I saw across the spectrum was an adopting of the beliefs of others and fidelity to a system and not necessarily to truth (wherever it may lead). Hillsong writer Marty Sampson's apostasy no more surprises me than does the Southern Baptist pastor caught up in a sex scandal. Just two different symptoms of walking in the flesh after adopting a simplistic and shallow theology.

A final note of irony. In lamenting the fall of that old time religion, Prophecy News Watch gives us this tale of woe:
Not to be outdone, the historic Norwhich Cathedral in England had a helter-skelter installed. The Rev. Jonathan Meyrick delivered a sermon atop the carnival ride, saying, "God is a tourist attractions," and "God wants to be attractive to us... for us to enjoy ourselves, each other, and the world around us and this glorious helter-skelter is about just that" ... A sacred cathedral becomes a joke. This after the Anglican church also installed a mini-golf course in another UK cathedral.
Let's count the human traditions in this blurb. 

  • What's an "historic" cathedral, and who cares? 
  • Who gave this man (or any man) the title of "Reverend" (certainly not the Lord)? 
  • Worse than just an historic cathedral, what on earth is a "sacred cathedral?"

And all of this wrapped up in sacramentalist "Anglican" garb.

Hey, PNW, God doesn't care about your "cathedrals," your hymns (many of which written by unbelievers and which teach error), or your ties.

So, yes, lots of problems in the contemporary "system" just are there are many, many problems in the other systems of men. We've covered before the blasphemies of "ancient" and "conservative" movements like Catholicism and Reformed Theology. The problem with both ends of the tie spectrum is being caught up in peripherals.  This makes some sense, as worrying about these unimportant matters is easier than studying to show oneself approved a God, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

"Bill wears a tie, carries a KJV, listens to hymns, goes to Sunday School... he qualifies for leadership!" is just as problematic as "Todd is a zany guy, plays guitar, wears colorful shirts, and dances up front at every service, and boy does he love the Lord! He qualifies for leadership!"

Just adopt Calvin's or Luther's or Aquinas' or Piper's or MacArthur's or Laurie's or [fill in your guru]'s theology, memorize the catechism (or whatever your guru calls it) and start pointing fingers at those who have a different catechism.

Build yourself a cathedral or a worship center. Wear the same clothes and listen to the same music everybody else in that building... somebody will think you're a "great Christian" and somebody will think you just don't understand Christianity. 

Again, I don't mind a critique of any theology, but finding the spec of an electric guitar in your brother's eye while you have an enormous cathedral in your own may be cause to step back and reconsider your criteria.