The Dirty Word of Modern Evangelicalism

I spent ten years in a church which would easily be classified as a ‘Modern Evangelical Church’. The pastor founded his ministry primarily on the principles of ‘felt needs’ preaching and subjective emotional experiences. In the midst of this environment I realized very quickly that several ‘high brow’ Christian terms were taboo. Among them were words such as tradition, liturgy, hymns, creeds, catechisms, doctrine and theology. The disdain of the last two terms I found especially disturbing.

A couple of years ago I recall speaking with a long-standing member one evening before service and she asked me what kind of books I enjoy reading. I simply replied, “Theology, mostly.” Her immediate reaction jolted me. Her nose crinkled as if she had just gotten a whiff of a frightened skunk. “That dry and musty stuff? That would put me to sleep” She said with undisguised contempt. She preferred a riveting fiction book (Christian fiction, of course) to mining the depths of the great doctrines of the bible. I have no problem with a good work of fiction, but it struck me as odd that a Christian would much prefer to read a work of fantasy over fact, falsehood over truth. This attitude is prevalent among members of the Evangelical church today. I must admit, I find this paradigm utterly perplexing. I have been in pursuit of a fundamental understanding of theology since the day God saved me from my sins. Admittedly, in the beginning I looked in all the wrong places, but over time the Lord has blessed me richly in attaining at least a rudimentary understanding of biblical and systematic theology.

Theology should not be an intimidating word, especially to the Church! Theology simply means the study of God. Every believer should make it his highest goal to fill his mind and heart with the knowledge of God: his person, his love, his mercy, his wrath, his justice, his glory and his holiness. We should search out his will, his plans and his purposes for mankind and this present world. There is, in my humble opinion, no nobler goal in this life than to know God. For to know him is to love him. To know him more is to love him more. Through Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, this knowledge is not only attainable, it has become our inalienable right and privilege as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God.

In former days I yielded to popular opinion. I believed men with a Ph.D in any theological discipline should not be heard. I judged them all to possess hardened hearts, interested only in dry dissertations over impractical matters of the scriptures, matters that held no relevance to simply loving Christ and ministering to others. Expressed in mathematical terms, the equation sets up like this: Theology + Theologian + Ph.D = Pharisee. Unfair? Absolutely! Yet, I once thought this way. Now, I am unashamed to call myself a theologian. No, I don’t have a Ph.D or even a Masters in theology. I am simply a student of God’s revealed word. Theology is not dead orthodoxy. It is not the entrance exam to Phariseeism. Theology is the heart and soul of the Lord’s true church. We must pursue God with all our hearts, all our minds and all our souls and he will reveal himself to us. God’s glory is revealed in our knowledge of him. The more of his radiance we behold, the more we will grow in his grace!

The inspiration for this post came from an excellent article from the blog of a new friend I met through Facebook. Her name is Kristine and her blog is called Justified and I highly recommend you reserve a place in your blogroll or your bookmarks for it. Her post is called ‘Why I am a Theologian’ and she lists 9 great supporting reasons. I could have written this post myself, because I agree wholeheartedly with every point she makes. Here’s an excerpt:

1. Because I’d rather study, think, discuss and write about the Person and work of Jesus Christ, than anything else. Especially me. If I think of me in any way; I want to do so with a right and biblical understanding of who I was, outside of Christ; and who I am now, in Christ.

2. Because sound theology provides me with a greater understanding of God’s holiness; which then supplies me with a right view of my sinfulness; which then feeds my heart and mind to praise Him for the Mighty, Sovereign, Holy, Gracious God He is.

3. Because the more I absorb through God’s written word; the more deeply and broadly I understand the unchanging truths contained within it, the more I love Him.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

I hope these articles will help to restore the reputation of one of the English language’s most profound words. If you are a Christian, justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone, then you must aspire to be a theologian to at least some degree. You may not be called to be a teacher or a pastor but your new heart of flesh should ache to intimately know the Father who chose you from eternity past, to long to fiercely embrace the Savior that shed his blood for you and to desire the friendship of the Spirit who works in you. The study of God’s word – that is, theology, is a means of growing in this knowledge and in his grace.

Note: I’ve decided to unofficially let this post kick off a new series called “Big Bad Bible Words”. I will examine, define and unravel the mysteries of so-called complex theological terms that appear to confuse and frustrate many Christians. I planned for my first post to be on grace, but this post naturally fits into the groove I envisioned for the series. So be on the look out for more of this type of post in the near future.


11 thoughts on “The Dirty Word of Modern Evangelicalism

  1. My blushing face instantly landed in my hands when I read my name in that post. That’s always so bizarre to see! I’m so thrilled to know that it (that post o’mine) gets the wheels in people’s head turning though! I am in total agreement with the points you made here; as to how most people in the modern church view doctrine and theology.

    Your post was great. Really great! I absolutely love the name you came up with for the series; and I’m really looking forward to checking it out as the posts get put on here!

  2. Tim,
    I listened to that series a year or two ago and it was a tremendous aid in helping me to crystallize my thoughts on the whole PDL disaster that infected my old church. Bob Dewaay’s articles and radio ministry have really been a great blessing to me. I hope to read his book refuting Warren’s PDL movement in the near future.

  3. Kristine,
    You really like the name? I had another title for the series but it never sounded right, so moments before publishing the article I came up with a new one off the cuff. So now that it has an endorsement, I guess I’ll keep it 🙂
    I’m happy you enjoyed the post. There is always a little pressure involved when I link to someone else’s work. I feel I must maintain a level of quality equal to theirs. I hope I achieved that here!
    I think the highest compliment a blogger can receive is when someone states that a post caused them to pause and think. I don’t mind if a reader disagrees, just so long as the articles challenge them and cause the cogs upstairs to turn a bit.
    So, thanks for the inspiration!

  4. That’s one of the things I appreciate about you Brandon – you are OK with disagreement, even from the likes of folk like me! Here’s a thought…some of the GenX folks don’t like theology not because it is “dry”, but because they have seen 2 things from the preceding (my) generation: orthodoxy but no orthopraxy, and orthodoxy long on “mean” and short on love. Clearly, I am making no accusations to you. You are gracious. But there are those of us who believe “right” (OK, maybe not me), but who practice so poorly that we have turned people off to the great truths of a great God.

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  6. Pastor Edwards,
    I agree with you for the most part. We must remember that theology establishes our orthodoxy. Orthodoxy establishes our orthopraxy. In other words, right belief is the foundation for right practice. Without theology we cannot know the way of salvation or walk in the ways of the Lord. The foundational doctrines of justification and sanctification are lost when theology is dumped to the side. Orthodoxy is important because it leads to orthopraxy. We cannot have one without the other.
    I think dead orthodoxy arises when a generation that came alive to orthodoxy gives way to succeeding generations who culturally inherit their parents beliefs but have not had those beliefs made alive in their hearts.
    With that said I think the deceitful heart of natural man will cling to any excuse for unbelief it can find. True believers of every stripe will fall short in the practice of their faith. That’s why we are saved by grace. Unbelievers, who don’t truly grasp salvation by grace alone through faith alone will point fingers of blame every time we fail to live up to Christ’s standards. They will then use our failures to excuse their behaviors. The cry of hypocrisy is the easiest excuse in the book to use. Someone once said that if you allow a hypocrite to stand between you and God, the hypocrite will be closer to God than you are. There are many instances in my Christian walk where I can justly be called hypocritical because I performed an action contrary to the will of God. All of us have. It is still no excuse for the unbeliever to not come to Christ. Coming to Christ is for forgiveness and the beginning of purification of life and thought with the promise of future glorification unto perfection. But just because salvation is all of grace does not excuse us believers from not living holy – we are called to a life of separation. We bring reproach to Christ when we sin. We should by no means sin more just so grace may abound.
    Christians who act like they are perfect do not properly represent true Christianity. Christians who do not feign sinlessness but rely on God’s graciousness to forgive and cleanse us of all our sins when we humbly repent and trust in Christ’s finished work are the true ambassadors of God.
    In the final analysis men refuse to come to Christ because of the hardness of their own hearts. A self-righteous ‘Christian’ only drives a wedge between the unbeliever and God. It is like they have become a physical manifestation of the Law of God. The law only creates enmity between a heart set on sin and the God of all holiness. A Christian who lives and communicates grace by faith alone builds a bridge to connect God and lost man. Perfection is impossible. Reconciliation is not. Let that be our Christian witness!

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