Thursday, August 28, 2014
Daily Dose of Bad Theology
Some days, I see stuff from self-proclaimed Christians that makes me understand why unchurched people mock us.
Bad Christian theology has been around as long as the serpent's little chat with Eve in the Garden of Eden. But maybe it's because of social media and the Internet, however, that we seem to be bombarded with it incessantly these days.
The big fail today comes from a video making the rounds on Facebook, where Joel Osteen's wife, Victoria, welcomes people to her husband's church by encouraging them to "do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy."
Now, I know that the Osteens have plenty of happy followers, but they've been preaching so much heresy for so long, it's hard not to draw the conclusion that they are seriously delusional, or they're really not born-again followers of Jesus Christ. One the one hand, I don't want to even pretend to legitimize Osteenians with the term "Christian," but on the other hand, I know plenty of people do, and they take what the Osteens say as gospel, instead of Christ's holy Gospel.
Then, today, I was reading something written by a female intern at a large yet non-famous Christian church's youth ministry. She was thanking a group of people for the generosity they'd shown her, and she gushed that she hoped those people would enjoy the rewards of good karma.
Huh? Karma is Buddhist and Hindu, not Christian. And this woman is helping to mentor teenagers in a Christian church? Should somebody in that role be mashing religious concepts together like that, even if she was jesting? Which, judging by her tone, she wasn't.
Not long after the karma thing, I found where the wife of another pastor at a supposedly Christian church was thanking God for her husband, and how she especially enjoyed the parts of her husband over which God didn't have first dibs.
I'm not sure if she was talking about the marriage bed specifically, or anything else besides her husband's soul, but either way, this pastor's wife is disseminating bad theology in her writing. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that you have been bought with a price, then you also understand that God "has dibs" on every part of all His people. We've been bought with a price - our entire bodies. Spouses don't get to enjoy certain parts of their mate that their mate shouldn't have already given over to God. Unless, of course, both the husband and wife have only given part of themselves to God, which would be bad theology. Right?
Yet these people - all of them - have careers of various impact within our Christian ghetto here in the United States. Their households are receiving payment to help teach Christian theology to both children and adults. Yet the theology for which their followers and supporters are willingly paying is bad theology.
I stumble across this kind of stuff almost every day as I research topics I'm going to write about for this blog. But rarely do I find three such egregious examples of Christians teaching badly within half an hour of each other, as I did this afternoon.
But this is what's going on out there in our churches - both our famous ones, like the Osteen's palace in Houston, and these other smaller, non-famous congregations.
Part of the problem, of course, is that a lot of people who claim the name of Christ have merely done so as a form of "fire insurance," in the hopes that, when they die, they can flim-flam their way into Heaven based on their church attendance and their lip service to God. After all, they weren't professional theologians, so what else could they do but go along with what their paid church staffers told them?
Another part of the problem, I suspect, is that since we Americans live in what we've been told is a Christian nation, many of us have deluded ourselves into believing the populist patchwork gospel of democracy, capitalism, and comforting passages from the Bible really is Christ's Gospel. We earnestly desire for God to desire happiness for us. We casually combine what we consider to be the best parts of secular thought processes into a pastiche of Biblical theology. We sloppily commercialize aspects of God's perfect order - such as romanticizing and sexualizing true love - apparently because we can.
Not because we should.
People like me who point out the inaccuracies in other peoples' theology usually get blasted for being "judgmental." I'm too rigid, too quick to condemn, and not gracious in allowing people to make mistakes. Like all of these things I get accused of don't apply to the folks accusing me!
The basic fact here is that if you are a child of God, you do not need to fear His wrath if you really make an honest mistake in something you say, or you genuinely don't understand enough basic theology to differentiate between what is true, and what isn't. God looks at our heart, and He knows what's motivating us. And if what's motivating us is an earnest desire to honor Him first and foremost, what's the likelihood that we won't be seeking to educate ourselves on how to do that?
We're not talking here about controversies like infant baptism, or even predestination - topics within which God-honoring believers can embrace differing viewpoints in love and humility. No, we're talking about our grasp of basic, baseline, orthodox truth concerning God and His Gospel. And bad theology will thrive where discernment doesn't.
Out of our hearts, our mouths speak, right? That's not my opinion, that's straight from Matthew 15:18. And in our Internet age, can't we extend that to "out of our hearts, our fingers type?"
What are you telling other people about God?
If it's not accurate, what does that say about your faith?