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Does Theology Matter?

BibleIt seems that in our current evangelical culture the "does it work?" question or even the "is it cool?" question comes before the "is it right or true?" question. Obviously questions of practicality and theology are essential. The problem is the order. Many rush into the practical or the hip. If the practical starts working or the hip gains a following, then we take a breath and search for the Bible verse, Old Testament Narrative, Proverb, etc. that legitimizes our practice. In an age where sermons are more about "how to's," corvettes, and "come on the journey with me" the question begs to be asked, "Is this the kind of preaching that turned the world upside-down?" When so many are dragged away by pragmatism and pop-cultural fads that are baptized as evangelical, but lead ultimately to liberalism or worse, the question begs to be asked, "Does theology really matter?" The answer must be "Yes!"  Dr. Danny Akin answered that question for his students with a "yes," when he wrote the following:  

 "Theology Really Does Matter"

Theology was once called "the Queen of the Sciences."  Given the way it is treated by many Christians and churches in our day, it perhaps should be identified now as the "court jester."  If it is not ignored all together, it is viewed as ivory tower and esoteric.  Those who love and do theology are not in touch with real people and the real problems and needs of everyday life.  Theology is like bad medicine.  Take as little as you can possibly get away with.

The Church has suffered greatly as a result of this atheological mindset.  As I look across the landscape of the Southern Baptist Convention, it appears that we are at an all time low in our ability to explain what we believe and why we believe.  The sad but tragic fact is we do not love God very well with our minds.

George Barna made the point when he reported that "only 4% of adults [in America] have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision making."  That observation, though sobering, was not shocking.  However, it was his next statement that really got my attention: "Only 9% of born again Christians have [a basic, biblical worldview]." (Barna Update, December 2003). 

The Church has been seduced by the sirens of modernity, and we have jettisoned a word-based ministry that is expository and theological in nature.  We have, in our attempt to be popular and relevant, become foolish and irrelevant.
Skiing across the surface needs of a fallen, sinful humanity we have turned the 'church' into a pop-psychology side-show and a feel-good pit stop.  We have neglected teaching the whole counsel of God's Word and the wonderful theology embedded in that Word.  Too many of our people know neither the content of Scripture nor the doctrines of Scripture.  In too many pulpits, if the Bible is used at all, it is usually as a proof-text out of context with no real connection to what the biblical author is saying. 

The words of the prophet Amos were never more piercing, "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, And from north to east; They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it."  Ours is a day when people are more familiar with the story lines of Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings than they are the grand redemptive story-line and themes of Scripture.  Too many Christians handle the Bible in a way that is irresponsible, dishonest with the text, and therefore devoid of solid theological substance.

Some fear that the SBC is in danger of being submerged into Calvinist theology.  I am far more convinced the real danger is being swallowed whole by shallow and sloppy theology.  If we will teach our people solid biblical theology rooted in biblical exposition, extreme agendas from any direction will be easily recognized and quickly rejected.

As we study and teach the Bible, we must engage, with a balanced and responsible method, the discipline of theology.  Drawing on classic categories we should ask of every text a series of important and necessary questions:

1. What does this text say about the Bible (and the doctrine of Revelation)?
2. What does this text say about God (also Creation, angelology)?
3. What does this text say about humanity (and sin, our falleness)?
4. What does this text say about Jesus Christ (His person and work)?
5. What does this text say about the Holy Spirit?
6. What does this text say about Salvation?
7. What does this text say about the Church?
8. What does this text say about Last Things?

Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe has sounded a much needed warning in this area.  Considering these sobering words:

  "I don't think the average church member realizes the extent
   of the theological erosion that's taken place on the American
  exegetical scene since World War II, but the changes I've witnessed in 
  Christian broadcasting and publishing make it very real to me.  Radio
  programs that once majored in practical Bible teaching are now
  given over to man-centered interviews ('talk' radio is a popular
  thing) and man-centered music that sounds so much like what the
  world presents, you wonder if your radio is tuned to a Christian
  station.  In so much of today's ministry 'feeling good' has
   replaced being good, and 'happiness' has replaced holiness."
      -(Warren Wiersbe, Be Myself, 301.)

We need, we must have a steady diet of exegetical and systematic theology if we are to be cured of the spiritual anemia that afflicts too many of our churches.  It is my prayer that Southeastern will be out front in dispensing this much needed medicine.

 Danny Akin