By Elizabeth Prata
When I post something online, (seems like when I post anything online) there is always someone or more than someone who immediately refutes it. Even the basics of our faith go challenged these days.
One of the most common arguments I receive is that theology doesn’t matter. “Just love Jesus”, they say. “It’s all about love” they say. Well, love is a doctrine. There are commands about it.
But when you mention commands, you’re called a Pharisee.
Here are three rebuttals I received recently that surprised even me. I’d like to explain why they are a concern and then offer some good, solid resources so that you can be a Berean and check them too.
It started with this statement from Beth Moore:
Leaving the obviously violated scriptures aside, Moore’s statement about poking the Calvinists in a sort of ‘us vs. them’ division, left one to wonder if she was identifying as Arminian. Which is what an observer tweeted to Moore, asking that very question. Moore replied that she didn’t know what she was, she’d been taught by so many different people. That led me to note that teachers of the word should know the word. Short version.
The rebuttals that a Bible teacher should know the word and its basic doctrines was refuted heartily by this teacher’s supporters. Here are the three I’ll focus on.
This statement was made by a pastor. He might have been talking about the layman who doesn’t need to know all the ins and outs of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, but it doesn’t matter, I refute it utterly. Seminarians definitely do know the difference in those two theologies. They are opposites of each other. They are fairly basic. I learned them in my first two years as a complete newbie to all religion. And we’re not talking about laymen here, but seasoned Bible teachers, and in his comment, seminarians. They of all people should know soteriology.
“It’s not necessary to be able to understand soteriology in order to preach the Gospel” is an internally contradictory statement.
Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation. So essentially the Pastor was saying you don’t need to understand salvation to preach salvation. Of course you do. You might not know the word soteriology, but you definitely need to understand the basics of salvation in order to preach it.
I’ve listed the standard topic words in systematic theology and their definitions below.
In this next one, you might have noticed the elevated position certain followers put their idols in. Rachel Held Evans was called a saint and a prophetess upon her death. Moore was pronounced an angelic being by Jonathan Merritt. Below, in responding why a celebrity teacher would not answer a direct theological question, the tweeter invoked a comparison to Jesus. This is never wise. Jesus is sovereign God, sinless and holy. He has His plans and purposes for doing things. We are safer to simply follow in obedience the commands for teachers in the Bible, namely, being ready to give an answer to those who ask, (1 Peter 3:15), something this teacher we’re discussing seems to have excised from her Bible.
The lesson here is that no matter how much you love a certain preacher or teacher, they are a forgiven sinner just like us. God shows no partiality. We should esteem and honor our own elders, (1 Timothy 5:17) but to use language that elevate celebrity teachers to positions they do not hold only invites pride and conceit.
In sum, to answer a person who asserts that another person’s behavior is OK because Jesus did it, especially when it contradicts commands for us, is this:
1. Beth Moore isn’t Jesus. (Isaiah 45:22).
2. Teachers should know theology. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
3. Teachers are to give an answer when asked. (1 Peter 3:15, Colossians 4:6.)
I erased the person’s comment until his last line, which is what I want to focus on. The problem with the line, which sounds punchy and kinda correct, is that it’s flatly wrong. We can’t examine fruit unless we have something to compare it to.
Say I’m in the Amazon. I’m walking on a path. I stumble across some ripe fruits that have fallen to the ground. What tree did it come from? Will I pick up the fruit and eat it, not knowing from whence it came? The scripture below warns us that some fruit is disguised and bad, because the false prophet it came from is disguised and bad.
I’d pick up the fruit and look for the tree it came from. If it came from a good tree, I’ll eat it. If it came from a bad tree, I won’t.
Bethel School of Prophets produces what people say is “fruit.” They graduate hundreds of mini-prophets per year. Is that fruit? No.
If you had a problem with your good fruit tree in your yard, and hired an arborist to come look at it, would you want him to look at the fruit and suggest a course of action if he had not been to arborist school? Was really just some guy wandering around looking at fruit apart from any tree knowledge? Of course not.
You can’t just declare something you believe is fruit without comparing it to the tree that grew it. The commenter is trying to unhitch fruit from the tree it came from (the tree being Jesus) and you can’t do that. Understand that the two, theology and fruit, are connected. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Meaning in this lesson, fruit grown apart from Jesus is empty of goodness and diseased.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-19).
One of the bad fruits a false prophet makes, is more false prophets and many evil disciples. (Matthew 23:15, Revelation 2:22-23).
How can you know if the tree the fruit came from is diseased? By comparing the fruit to the Bible. You have to know “theology” to do that. Theology simply means the study of God.
Twitter and Facebook, and other venues for online discourse offer up wonderful opportunities to learn and to engage with one another. These venues also offer up lots of opportunities for satan to promote his lies, through the keyboards of nice sounding platitudes. It’s important to think through these. Its one of the reasons we’re warned to be slow to speak (James 1:19).
CARM.org, Calvinism/Arminianism Comparison Grid
Alisa Childers: Studying Theology “The Bible Says, “Knowledge Puffs Up.” Does This Mean We Shouldn’t Study Too Much?
GotQuestions: What is Theology Proper?
Theology Proper – the study of God the Father.
Christology – the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Pneumatology – the study of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Bibliology – the study of the Bible.
Christian Anthropology – the study of the nature of humanity.
Hamartiology – the study of the nature and effects of sin.
Angelology – the study of angels.
Christian Demonology – the study of demons.
Ecclesiology – the study of the nature and mission of the church.
Eschatology – the study of the end times / last days.