Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Theological Ideas Have Consequences, Too

Ideas have consequences.  So do - or maybe even especially do - theological ideas.  Many ideas are experimental.  Like how to fix things that break around the house.  There might be a rubber band and chewing gum solution, or a $100 part solution.  If the chewing gum doesn't hold, you can always change your plan and go to the hardware store.  If an experiment fails, you can change your idea with minimal damage.

When one advances an experimental idea, one is saying, "I don't know whether this will work, but if it doesn't, I'll try a different method."  Once, I bought a cheap tool costing five bucks, instead of the quality Sears Craftsman tool that cost $20, thinking I might save $15.  The tool broke, nearly cutting up my hand.  I nearly paid five bucks for the cheap tool, plus several hundred for a doctor visit, plus the $20 I would have spent in the first place on the right tool to replace the cheap one.  I learned to always buy the good tool.

Some ideas have terrible consequences.  Like the idea that one race is better than the others.  The consequence might be a world war with tens of millions of people being murdered.  But most bad consequences are usually unintended.  And this is where theology comes in.  The problem is that many (most?) will view their own theological ideas as the "right" idea, and it's the right idea because it "comes from Scripture," even if it is a misunderstanding of the bible.  And since it's the right idea that comes from a right understanding of the bible, it can't fail.  If it fails, it isn't the fault of the idea or those who came up with the idea.  It's the fault of the one who didn't (or couldn't!)  follow the idea exactly.  And the tragedy is that not understanding that an idea may be wrong may lead the one who holds the idea to always believe that they are right at the expense of numerous people over a large period of time.  That large numbers of people are hurt or greatly burdened is to them an indication that large numbers of people are wrong, thus reinforcing the idea that they alone are right.  The Pharisees had this problem.

One good thing to do with theological ideas is to look at the practical consequences of those ideas.  Like church membership for example.  Does a particular view of church membership lead to Christians being rejected from a church?  Does it foster elitism?  Does it divide people?  Does it end up giving power to certain people that the bible doesn't give power to?  What is the result of using such power?  Are certain people prohibited from exercising their gifts within that body?  Will somebody be labeled as divisive, disobedient, spiritually deficient, or maybe a heretic because they don't believe the idea to begin with?  Does a certain theological idea have negative consequences on, let's say, single mothers?  Divorced people?  People raised in different theological circles?  My hope is for more people to critically look at the consequences of theological ideas and to change those ideas accordingly.


  1. The frustrating part about bad theological ideas is that the consequences sometimes take a long time to come to light. By the time you've figured out that their bylines of "just try harder, pray more, give your expectations to God, etc" are just stall tactics, an entire new generation is at risk. The leaders have an easy out. Your failure after all,ends up on your shoulders, not theirs.

  2. What? No Friday night post???