The Joy of Theological Transformation

Theology is a realm that I have grown to have a love-hate relationship with. I find immense joy in its capacity to deepen one’s faith, offering a path to a deeper understanding of God and His ways. It’s a journey that can lead people to rejoice because they comprehend God better, as Jeremiah 9:24 reminds us. Witnessing the transformation that theology can bring, both in myself and in others, is truly exhilarating. There’s nothing quite like seeing that “wow, this is really true” expression on someone’s face when theological insights click. It’s a moment I live for.

The Dark Side of Theology: The Theologically Dangerous

However, there is a darker side to theology that I encounter all too frequently. While I pray that this darkness does not infect my students, there are always a few who take their theological knowledge and concoct a dangerous recipe of sin and shame. These individuals, whom I call “theologically dangerous,” exhibit a severe lack of grace.

The theologically dangerous individuals may get some theological answers right, but they become judges, juries, and executioners of people. What should have been a journey toward humility morphs into a path of arrogance. They justify their graceless belligerence by claiming, “I am not arrogant; I am discerning.” Correct theology becomes the sole virtue, overshadowing tenderness, grace, respect, and kindness. Instead, it offers only a black hole of hopelessness unless people conform to their rigid beliefs. They judge others solely by their statement of faith, resulting in a small fellowship circle and few friends. The distinction between essentials and non-essentials holds no place in their worldview diary. They incessantly hunt for theological errors until they find them, and they correct others with pride. If they’re not invited to gatherings, they interpret it as persecution for their unwavering theology.

These are the individuals who dwell in the dark side of theology, and unfortunately, they often tend to be the most vocal and possibly, among the informed, the most numerous. Their lack of theological humility makes them unable to cease talking and truly listen. They have yet to learn the fear of God. They appoint themselves as watchdogs of Christian orthodoxy. They are the first to comment and correct on blogs and social media posts, and the first to raise their hands in Sunday School when you ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” After ten minutes of talking, you may find yourself wondering, “What part of the word ‘question’ do they not understand?” (Yes, I know. This sounds very personal!). Worst of all, they question people’s salvation over minor theological disagreements such as the age of the earth, whether or not you accept all five points of Calvinism, or denial of a Rapture of the church before the Tribulation.

These are theological teenagers. That is the best way I can describe them. They have studied so much, they know everything and they are not afraid to let you know it.

Transformation Through Theological Humiliation

Thankfully, many eventually progress in their theological knowledge to a point where they undergo a transformation. This transformation occurs when they experience theological humiliation. This is much like the transition from an uninformed adolescent to a know-it-all teenager, and finally to a mature adult.

Mature adults possess wisdom and grace due to their theological maturation. They recognize that what they thought they knew as teenagers has been tested and refined through life’s trials. Doctrinal battle scars attest to the ripening of their beliefs. They embrace the diversity and confusion brought about by the reality that other good people disagree with them on this subject or that. Through this recognition of theological options they acknowledge that while there are certain absolutes in our faith, there is also a considerable amount of ambiguity. In other words, they grasp that there is much that we they don’t know. They firmly hold onto essential truths and release their grip on less critical matters. They choose their theological battles carefully. This marks a transition from ignorance to arrogance, and, finally, to a state of informed humility.

At this point, fellowship can resume, the theological lynch mob disperses, and invitations to social gatherings start to trickle in. The lantern of hope illuminated by the gospel shines brightly. At this stage, the dark side of theology begins to fade away. Their ego has moved over and let the meekness of Christ call their character shots.

 


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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