Sep

08

2012

Ray Ortlund|12:38 PM CT

Theology can be overrated

Theology can be overrated.  It can also be underrated.  If a person does not have clear, biblical convictions in alignment with the Doctrinal Statement of Immanuel Church, the elders here will not call that person to our ministry.  But theology can be overrated too.

The Bible shows us enough of God to assure us and draw us in.  This creates conviction.  It also shows us that there is more, a lot more, that we don’t know about God.  This creates humility.  John Calvin called the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, for example, “a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.  Far be it from any of the faithful to be ashamed of ignorance of what the Lord withdraws into the glory of His inaccessible light” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, J. K. S. Reid, translator, page 124).  The Bible gives us backbone about what we can know and honesty about what we can’t know.  Theology has limitations.  It is meant to.

I am not saying that theology doesn’t matter.  It does.  But I am saying that there are other things that matter too.  And if those other things are underrated and theology is overrated, bad things start happening.  Churches with robust theology can be infested with strife and misery.  Obviously, we need more than theology.  Not less.  More.

The Beatitudes of our Lord do not say, “Blessed are the orthodox.”  What he did say, first and foremost, was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3).  Among people of strong and rich theological conviction, the Lord looks first and foremost for weakness and poverty.  Personally, I resonate more with an Arminian whose heart beats with self-reproach and need than with a Calvinist whose heart beats with self-assurance and demand.  But it’s the Calvinist whose own principles should humble him the more.

The religious flesh relishes theology, because it requires no death of ego, no surrender of control, no apologies.  Theological disputation can feed a spirit of superiority.  But because it’s about truth and right, our smugness can go undiscerned.

When we all open our Bibles with hunger for more mercy from God, everything starts getting better.

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