10/27/2008 03:10:00 pm


Posted by Unknown |

I was driving along the other day (I think I may have been with Ryan) thinking about how humble I am. And while resting in the warm glow of my inner humility, I figured the most humble thing to do would be to work out if, and how, I might have a hint of arrogance in my life. Because how much more humble can you get than admitting you're arrogant? What a winner! I decided that if there is any place where I am likely to be arrogant it's in regards to theology.

I know most people don't think about it, but in some Christian circles we have a high degree of theological arrogance. I think Bible College is especially good at breeding it in people though it's not exclusive to Bible College. There are lot's of places it can be found, usually among the Bible literate.

I think it might be generally due to the fact that when we theologically align ourselves with different camps where there are plenty of people around to give you theological support and agreement giving you a feeling of superiority to everyone outside your camp. But the arrogance then gets honed and sharpened when you diverge from your dominant theological camp, giving you theological superiority over the people in your primary theological camp, as well as all the others. You become the person with the best theology because you've found exactly the right balance.

For example theologically I fall into the reformed evangelical, charismatic, social justicey groups*. Meaning all of them have their separate camps but I borrow from all of them. My primary camp would be the Reformed Evangelical camp. But because I have a bit of charismatic leaning, I'm obviously better versed on things such as gifts of the Spirit and miracles, etc. But then I'm also into the social justice thing a bit too (if only as a badge, rather than much actual involvement). So when you add it all up, not only do I have a correct view of Jesus, the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but I'm a good person to boot. I'm pretty much theologically perfect.

Theological arrogance is kinda fun. It's really enjoyable to sit around and pick someone apart because of their bad theology. Not only do you come out feeling superior, but you look superior too because you've been able to display your astute knowledge of the Bible and/or of a particular doctrine or two.

But in the end theological arrogance leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Theological discussion and debate is, for people like me, generally rather fun. But theological arrogance gets boring because there's never a chance of you being bested (at least in your own eyes), and there is never a chance that you'll learn anything new, because you already know everything anyway.

I found a blog yesterday written by a woman who wrote over 4000 words (I counted) because the youth pastor of her church was going to a conference using church money that encouraged some Catholic contemplative practices. She was complaining that he shouldn't be going to a conference teaching such dangerous ideas. She had a problem because the guy thought he might be able to learn something from the theologically bankrupt emergent church. The guy should really find someone with good theology and learn from them.

This woman seems to be at the more extreme end of theological arrogance. So much so that people with divergent theology shouldn't even be engaged with, except maybe to angry blog about them. When I see that I tend to be encouraged to head in the other direction. There is too much out there to write off everyone who doesn't see eye to eye with you theologically. Disagreement, exploration and discussion are too fruitful to only stick to your preferred doctrinal flavour.

My task, in my fantastic humility, is to pay attention to what other people have to say; To take what's good, leave out the rest, and love the people. Chances are the person loves Jesus even if they love him differently to me. And I need to acknowledge that even those people I profoundly disagree with, even the people who I worry might not even be Christian, are probably many times smarter than me and could kick me around the theological paddock till the cows come home.

That's not to say that good theology isn't important. Paul tells Timothy "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." Theology saves. At least correct theology and lifestyle does. But how we meet with and speak about those we think are incorrect is also important. Not everyone can be right, but that doesn't mean everyone can't be loved.

"Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." I think the key is to have knowledge and love. Because because being puffy and loving sounds best, kinda like a marshmallow and everyone loves marshmallows, at least in concept if not in taste.

*I realise that while I may want to put myself in the Reformed Evangelical, Charismatic, or Social Justice camps, I probably wouldn't be allowed in by the hardcore gatekeepers of any of them, I'd be too watered down for all of them. Oh well.