What do you do when your theology doesn’t work (part 2)?

Yesterday, I linked to an article which described the death of a young boy at the hands of his parents broken theology. Their “faith” in God’s ability and willingness to heal their son compelled them to withhold the insulin his body needed to survive. Tragically, he died, and his parents were convicted of manslaughter and child abuse.

I asked if anyone else had an experience that caused them to question their theology, but I never really talked about any of my own.

So, I thought it would only be fair to share.

Growing up, I only knew about one church — the church in which I was born and raised. Consequently, I knew very little about the church as a whole, in my city, in my state, in my country, or around the world. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s a normal part of being raised in a Christian home.

However, when I got to college, my view of Christianity was quickly and abruptly broadened. Suddenly, I was flung into conversations with people from all across the theological map…and I realized that I was definitely wrong about a lot of things. I met people who prayed to be baptized in God’s Spirit but had never spoken in tongues. I met people who prayed and believed with all their hearts that God would heal their sick loved ones, but those loved ones died.

And to make matters worse, I began to study the Bible, theology, and church history. (hopefully, you catch the sarcasm there)

All at once, the questions that were once easy to answer became unimaginably complex. And what’s worse, so many questions seemed to have more than one right answer!

In short, I realized my theology was broken… and at first, I thought that was a bad thing.

I struggled so hard (and still do, sometimes) to make sense of everything. Why does God heal some people and not others? Why do some people receive miraculous manifestations of the Spirit while others do not? Does God save everyone, or will some people spend eternity in torment?

So, what is a broken man with broken theology to do?

I have finally realized that I will never “fix” my theology. I’m an imperfect being that longs for transformation; yet, I know that transformation will not be completed in this life…that much remains until we see him face to face.

So again, what do I do with my broken theology?

The working answer I’ve come up with often seems to simple to be true, yet it’s the best answer I’ve been able to find: embrace your own brokenness. As a human being living in a world tainted by sin, nothing I can come up with will be perfect… and if I’m willing to admit that, then I am compelled to be humble, humble enough to admit that I could be wrong — wrong about what I think and wrong in the way I behave.

Getting to that point is a constant struggle…It’s not as if I’ve arrived there, and now that I’m there everything’s clear. Not at all. In fact, I’m not sure anyone ever gets to that point and stays there; instead, I think it’s a goal toward which we should all be striving, minute-by-minute, day-by-day.

A pastor I sometimes like from Seattle (Mark Driscoll) uses a phrase I absolutely love. Hold on to some things — like Jesus, Scripture, Incarnation — with a tight, closed grip, and don’t compromise them. But with all of those other things — the details that only serve to divide — hold onto those things with open hands, and be willing to let them go if someone shows you a better way.

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3 thoughts on “What do you do when your theology doesn’t work (part 2)?

  1. Ben,

    I know what you mean…all to well. What are some of the things you felt you were wrong about? And what other conclusions you have come to? Even if it’s in a personal e-mail I would appreciate knowing and contemplating what they are. I’m currently reading a few books entitled “My Absurd Religion” (by which I make my living) And “Strange Fire, Holy Fire” a book by a self described “recovering charismatic”. Both are quite interesting (and available through Amazon), even though I don’t agree with all of their various stances. You may find them helpful.

    I find it interesting that as people dive beyond the surface of their accustomed theology, they start to see that many things they simply accepted as black and white, were filled with gray. I too like Mark Driscoll’s quote. I find that when we do hold tightly to the absolutes, it makes dealing with the gray matters much easier.

  2. For a long time, I had no idea how to handle the contradictions I was encountering. A few years into college, I started attending Riverview. One of the first talks I heard there was in the same vein as the open versus closed fisted message from Driscoll (perhaps he was the inspiration for Noel’s talk). As I began to process the meaning of that, I started to feel so liberated. I no longer needed to have all of the answers. I began to feel much more comfortable with questions.

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