Monday, November 28, 2011

Do I need a Theology for that?

Like many of my posts, this is about something in the church world that bothers me. What bothers me is the attempt by many to turn everything into a theology. Now I know that many of you probably do not like the term 'theology' because it seems like something done by academics who do not live on the same level as normal people. (I sometimes agree.)

I have to say, however, that we all make theologies (ideas about God and what He expects of us) all the time. As I mentioned in a previous blog, we often trot out our theology to explain why bad things happen. (They must have sinned, God is testing them, etc.) You know how much I dislike that.

However, someone near and dear to me, who also was a minister for over 60 years and had his doctorate in sacred theology, asked me a question several years ago. He asked me what my theology of helping the poor was. My initial response I did not verbalize. I thought, "I didn't know I needed one". It struck me as odd that any theology was required simply to do what God has told us to do.

That does not mean that we do not need to think about it or study the scriptures on it, but I hesitate to make a theology out of every subject. I like what James, the Lord's brother, had to say, 'be doers of the Word'. Isn't just doing the Word sufficient? Do we have to make some sort of theology out of it? When the Bible says, 'You shall not steal', is a theology necessary for us not to steal? When the Bible says 'visit the widows and orphans in their affliction', should we not simply do it? I know that God may lead us to do more, but why make a simple command more complicated than it is?

Does simple obedience fall short of what God asks of us? Think of how the Catholic Church has built a theology around the confession of one's sins. They want you to confess to a priest instead of going directly to God. Then the priest will give you some works that you must perform - Hail, Marys and all that - then you can receive absolution. More than that there is the difference between mortal and venial sins. It gets very complicated.

I am sure a faithful Catholic will tell you how it benefits them. But this is not "doing the Word" because the Word says just to confess you sins [to God] and He will forgive you. (1 John 1:9) How simple. And not just simple, but it works. He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

Somehow we do not feel that doing the Word is enough. God somehow wants more. But is this not like what the Pharisees did? They added requirement upon requirement until their requirements even prevented them from doing the Law they were trying to uphold! "You make void the Word of God through your tradition."

There are many today who are saying that helping the needy is part of the gospel. Others disagree, saying that though helping the poor is necessary, it is not part of the gospel. My response is this: it makes no difference how you view it. It only matters that you do what the Bible says.

So my theology of helping the poor is this: just do it.

(Note: Nike did not sponsor this post)

(Note: To my Catholic friends - please do not consider this post to be some sort of Catholic bashing. You know that I take the Protestant position on matters related to salvation, the sacraments, etc. My Protestant friends are as much a target of this post as my Catholic ones. They are probably worse at developing theologies at the expense of simply doing what the Bible says.)

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