Not too long ago, I was sitting with a group of Christians and engaged in a discussion with a young man about theology.  Immediately, some of his statements began to concern me as I found them inconsistent both with scripture and the historical foundation of Christianity.  I looked around waiting for someone else to jump in.  No one did.  Either they felt what he was saying was not important or didn’t realize how off base he was. What was the problem?  Apathy? Indifference? Who cares, he was a Christian anyway.

As a follow up to A Theology of Indifference from last year, I continue to be concerned, alarmed and dismayed at the growing lack of discernment in the body of Christ.  This concern has recently been amplified by a comment, spoken to me in love, that I did not need to be so serious about my Biblical and theological pursuits.  You need balance, my friend said.  While I don’t quite have the social life I’d like since I am after all, a single mother taking a full load in the ThM program and working part-time, I balance (pun intended) that against the value of what it is all about – understanding more fully what God has revealed through his word, through his son and throughout history.  No, it doesn’t leave too much room for a social life but maybe learning about God on his terms is a little more important.  Maybe I care too much.

I have definitely become more aware of the importance of human relationships and the need to develop them.  We cannot live this life alone, especially not a Christian life.  Relationship is necessary.   Engagement with people is necessary.  I, for one, could use better relationship and have been making intentional steps in that direction.  But does that cause us to put doctrinal significance of essentials on the back burner?  Does the quest for relationship and balance cause us to lose sight of the importance of the triune God and his plan for his people?  Have we exchanged fellowship for Christian education because in the end, it is people who matter.  Who cares about doctrine and besides it divides.

Who is Christ?  How are others expressing him?  Listen and pay attention.  You will find some interesting statements.  I do wonder if the average church goer was asked what Christ accomplished on the crossed, what answers would we get?  He died for our sins. Justification, reconciliation, propitiation, redemption and sanctification sound real fancy and probably to most, are relegated to academic learning but we needn’t be concerned with such technical terms.  But I think these so vitally important to understand the great salvation that has been handed down encompassed in Romans 5:8, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly”.   The bottom line is can we understand and articulate the faith sufficient to create an atmosphere of discernment.

In Michael’s recent piece about people walking away from the church in droves due to dogmitized approaches to Christianity that leave no room for legitimate questioning or critical learning, is it any wonder that they have said “cancel my subscription”.  No amount of fellowship, ministry programs, revivals, outreach programs or worship concerts can compensate for the growing in grace and the true knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).  It is my opinion that only through solid Christian education can any real growth take place through the application of discernment and ministry.  Yes, they do go hand in hand.  Otherwise, answers to questions and questions about answers will get swallowed up in a sea of popularized thinking that leaves no foundation for understanding why we believe what we believe.

Friends, we need to start caring about our faith.  We cannot settle for formulas, pop-theology and the latest formation craze.  We need to start paying attention to how people are expressing the basics of Christianity – the nature of the triune God, the work and person of Christ, the purpose of the church and God’s plan for history.  Otherwise, unchecked and unexamined ideas will infiltrate the church indicative of Jude’s concern that “certain persons have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 1:4).  That does not mean go to the other extreme and nit-pick about every doctrinal issue.  But it does mean at least understanding what they are.  Fellowship is good, concerts are great, programs are helpful.  But striving to understand God on his terms is priceless and worthy of the highest discernment.

Rant over 🙂

Edit Note:  I’m afraid I have given the impression that this post is about correcting people.  It is not.  Rather, it is about having discernment, which requires having the ability to understand where ideas and concepts deviate from an historic understanding of Christianity.  The application of how correction is handled is a completely different issue and will vary depending on the scenario.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

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