What happened to our foundation? When did we lose it? Why has it become expendable? How do we get it back? Spoken in the context of a house, these questions seem rather odd. You don’t just lose a foundation to a house. It is never expendable. Sure, sometimes it is in need of repair, but the cracks in the walls will make it evident to all that the house may need a lift, and repair is imminent. But what happens when these questions are applied to evangelical theology? Then the answers become more interesting.
I recently heard a pastor say something astonishing from the pulpit. He said proudly, “I don’t know theology. I am not a theologian. I have never been to theological school and don’t know any of those big words. All I know is Jesus.” As sincere and profound as that may seem, his comments evidence a way of thinking that has become all too common in evangelicalism today. Could it be that the culture is having a greater impact on the Church than the Church is having on the culture? There are cracks in the wall.
Today, we are living in a time when theological foundations are being rocked. Good theology is no longer being seen as an essential component of our faith in Christ. Sure, you can have your personal faith in Christ, and this will get you a pass. But if your faith is built upon personal convictions that your beliefs are true to the exclusion of other belief systems, then you will have trouble. The moment your theology becomes articulated, it is seen as a threat. Acceptance in our society comes at a high price. Compromise is the cost. Many people today concede that the Christian faith is simply their personal “leap into the dark” that is only true for them but may not be true for others. Once the Christian faith is seen as a “leap into the dark”—a hope without evidence or substantial conviction—anti-intellectualism has birthed, and the Church is coming dangerously close to irrelevance. Theology itself becomes a subjective second-rate enterprise.
Speaking about theology in times past was not taboo as it is today. Theology used to be called “the queen of the sciences.” It was understood to be the first among pursuits of knowledge. It was believed that all other pursuits were vitally linked to its dictates. Morality was dictated by it. Philosophy was called its handmaiden. Why was it held in such high esteem then? Because theology itself provides the foundation for your philosophy and worldview, which in turn sets inclinations for your heart, actions, and decisions in all situations. Everything is affected by your theology.
In his timely book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Noll begins with these alarming words, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Is this where we are today? Have we lost our minds? Are we at a place where we are willing to sacrifice our foundation for acceptance into the world? Where does one go if the foundations are destroyed? Sure, knowing Jesus, as Paul said, is the first among our pursuits (Phil. 3:10). But knowing Jesus is a theological enterprise. “Who do men say that I am?” is a theological question (Matt. 16:13). Is Christ God? Is He man? Is He part man and part God? Is he ninety percent God and ten percent man? Or is he ten percent God and ninety percent man? Whom do you know? Whom do you love? Can you answer that? Can you defend the orthodox belief that Christ is fully God and fully man? Can you articulate it so that others can understand this key essential to orthodox Christianity? You see, we can’t just love Jesus without understanding who Jesus is. We can’t lead people to know a Christ whom we have subjectively created. We must lead people to the Christ of the Scripture. If your theology is sacrificed, your witness to Christ is lost.
The alarm is sounding. The mission to reclaim theology—to reclaim the mind for Christ— is on the way. So, to answer the questions that we first posed: We are not going to lose our foundation. It is never expendable. And the repairs are going on now. Let the evangelical church stand tall, proclaiming theological truth with great passion. For it is only here that we will find Christ.
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The Theology Program (TTP), started in 2001 at Stonebriar Community Church, is an evangelical theological education program for all people who have a hunger and thirst for God’s truth. Its mission is to reclaim the mind for Christ by equipping people and churches to understand and defend the Christian faith. TTP has joined with bible.org and is being used in churches all over the world. In the six course curriculum, students go through all the major disciplines of systematic theology, learning to think through the issues biblically so that they can understand and defend the historic Christian faith. This program is available online at www.thetheologyprogram.com.