GIVE IT UP: LENT 3 (Bad Theology)

Bad Theology has done a lot of evil in the world…

and the Lenten season is a good time to try to weed it out of our life.  It’s kind of like a virus that becomes toxic to us and to others; none of us expect to contract it, but little by little our beliefs, preferences and opinions can be welded into theological principals which not only pervert the teachings of Jesus, but become detrimental to our own peace and to that of the people around us.

Calvin_ArminiusI’m not going to tell you WHAT theology is bad. That would be just my opinion.  I’m not going to take the side of Arminianism or Calvinism; Catholic or Protestant; Open or Closed deists – or any of the theological debates.  Sure I have my preferences – but I believe the test for good of bad theology is simple;

Good Theology NEVER distorts the clearest teachings of Jesus for the more obscure theories of God.

What are some of the clearest teachings of Jesus?

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your   soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36 – 40 

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20


Bad theology makes the above core truths and commandments secondary to people’s agendas or theories on the nature of God and people.

Bad Theology was responsible for the establishment and duration ofcross-burning-at-nighttime-ku-klux-klan-kkk-rally American Slavery. {Doctrine of Discovery, Biblical Defense of Slavery}

Bad Theology was responsible for the atrocities (from treaty violations to boarding schools to the massacres) against Native Americans. {Manifest Destiny}

Bad Theology was responsible for the establishment of Jim Crow segregation. {Jim Crow Museum}

Bad Theology is responsible today for the indifference of believers to the suffering of their sisters and brothers.

I’m not sure when, but sometime in the course of history Christians decided it was better to argue about transubstantiation than to forgive others as God forgives.

What was the reason Christian leaders decided loving your enemies really was less important than fighting about eschatological theories?

I’m convinced it is a human tendency; to focus on what is abstract while ignoring what is practical, especially when the practical requires sacrifice and fighting about the abstract is self aggrandizing.   But much of it happened as Christianity became tied to the empire; Roman, British, or American.  As the preferred religion of the state all wars became “righteous” all enemies became “demonized”  and national goals became divine mandates.

Today Bad Theology still allows people to speak with hate about their political opposition because they believe their enemy is the anti-Christ.

Bad Theology allows people to believe some countries can do no wrong; and so tolerate all manners of evil they perpetuate, because they have “chosen” status.

Jonah (the guy who got swallowed by the whale) had bad theology.  He wanted to see the apocalypse rain down on Nineveh, and he was angry with God when instead he rained down forgiveness. We enter a  dangerous place when we let our view of God’s judgement control how we distribute God’s love.

However Good Theology, begins with the struggle to comprehend God’s Love (for our selves and our world) and then seeks to live that love out to others.  I think of the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The Father never stopped loving both his sons, even though the one thought only he deserved it.  Good theology has to begin with God’s love, accepting it and making sure we never stand in the way of anyone being loved.  Real love demands real action, like the celebration in the parable – it was not just enough to say it.  There is no gospel, without a social gospel.

Good Theology is not easy to live out, it is not “fun” (like abstract theories) to debate and argue about, it is not even a creed to be memorized or beliefs to recite. but it is the only was to peace with God and others – it is the key to Beloved Community.





3 thoughts on “GIVE IT UP: LENT 3 (Bad Theology)”

  1. Good theology is wise.
    Good theology builds assurance
    Good theology is not the domain of professional theologians.
    Good theology submits to truth
    Good theology incarnates
    Good theology provides a path from all places towards God
    Good theology is rightly purposed

  2. I have often encouraged what I call “practical theology”, exactly as you are defining here. Study is good, and right theology is essential, but AMEN to your observation that we (and I count myself in this lot) too easily ignore the practice of “Theo” and reside on the “ology”. Many issues faced in our communities and families could be addressed by living out what we know are the core truths, rather than redefining and redefining AND redefining those ideas into book after book… Well said here, brother Marque.

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