In my previous post I began looking at the huge amount of importance we believers tend to put on our theological views–our beliefs about God–to the point that we treat them as foundational to our faith. And I said that I was re-thinking this concept, that I was pondering a faith that was deeper than “correct” belief, based more on relationship than on specific beliefs or a theological creed.
I’m not saying theology isn’t important; rather, it’s a matter of prioritizing. I’m just saying our theology is maybe not as critical to our faith as we’ve made it out to be, and perhaps other things are more important. Consider the following points:
- As much emphasis as we’ve put on theology–at its best, theology is the attempt of finite man to explain an infinite God. So when we make theology the foundation, what we’re really saying is that we, of all people, have figured God out. (How unbelievably arrogant of us.)
- Since theology is imperfect at best…everyone is guilty of heresy at some level. Let me stress that again: everyone. For anyone to suggest otherwise is, again, incredibly arrogant. There are ideas I have about God that are inevitably wrong. Same with you. We just don’t have this down pat.
- God does not seem to be offended by most of the wrong things we believe about Him. He embraces us in our ignorance, and usually doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to correct our wrong perceptions. In fact, He often seems to show up in places where we think He shouldn’t, blessing people whose theology deeply conflicts with our own. (Case in point: heresy is rampant in the church in China, yet the church is growing faster in China than anywhere else in the world.)
- While the early apostles consistently corrected heresies in the church, they generally did not use those errors as a litmus test as to whether people were “in” or “out” of the church. In fact, the church was not identified by what they believed, but Whom they believed in.
So if theology is not the most important factor in our faith, than what is? Let me ask some questions that reflect my own thought process here…
In one word, what would you say is really the foundation of our faith?
I know what answer I would give: “Jesus.” Is not Jesus the true Foundation, the Author and Finisher of our faith?
So…if Jesus is the foundation of our faith…is Jesus an idea? (no)
Is Jesus a system of beliefs? (no)
Is Jesus a doctrine? (no)
What is Jesus?
He is a Person.
This is the crux of the matter, in my view. The foundation of our faith is not a creed; the foundation of our faith is a Person. A Person who is unchangeable–the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Now…when I think about some other person I know in life–friend, wife, whoever–if I come to believe something inaccurate about that person, does it change who that person is?
No, it doesn’t. It might affect how I feel about him/her, or how I relate to him/her–but it does not change the person. Same with Jesus. He is who He is, regardless of what we believe about Him (i.e., our theology). This is very reassuring, if you think about it–because as I said, all of us have some misperceptions about Jesus. Our theology doesn’t change who He is. As we muddle through our erroneous thinking, Jesus remains the same, remains patient, as we follow Him.
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a much more stable foundation than trying to figure out the “right” thing to believe, and hoping you are right. 🙂
If this is the case, does this mean we needn’t fear heresy at all? No…that would be naive. Otherwise, why would the apostles focus so much attention on it? Jesus Himself warned us to guard against deception (see Matt. 24). But consider the actual deception Jesus warned against: being misled by others claiming to be Him–claiming to be anointed–leading people astray. Leading people away from following Christ.
The heresy we should fear most is the one that leads us away from following Jesus. Not Jesus the idea–Jesus the Person. Jesus, the foundation of our faith. So the question then becomes not what we believe…but who/what we are following.
Are we following Jesus, or are we following some other personality?
Are we following Jesus, or are we following a teaching?
Are we following Jesus, or are we following a doctrine?
I find it interesting, if not ironic, that our theology so often distracts us from the Person of Christ to focus on certain ideas about Him. Just sayin’. 🙂 Given our capacity to be wrong–our capacity to be deceived–how on earth did we get to the point where we actually trusted our own theology, anyhow? That ought to give us enough to think about all day. 🙂
There’s a lot more going through my mind about this, but I think what I’m coming to is that I’m not really changing my faith’s foundation–the foundation of our faith has always been Jesus the Person. But I am recognizing that truth more and more–and knowing this changes everything. Shifting my focus from what I believe to Whom I am following, I’m coming to recognize that Jesus is quite able to handle the various wrong ideas we have about Him, and in fact, that correcting those wrong perceptions is a natural part of discipleship. I still think there’s a right way to see God; I am just learning to be okay with the understanding that I don’t always know what that is, what it looks like. The key is that we follow Him, and not be swayed to follow someone–or something–else. If that’s where our heart is, I think we can ultimately trust Him with the rest.
Because Jesus is the foundation of our faith. And it seems much safer to trust a perfect Person than an imperfect theology.