Theological Avoidance fallacy: n. Thinking theology is impractical for true Christian living.

This is very common in our world. It is also, to some degree, understandable. People are tired of “searching” for answers and have decided to just enjoy the journey. While it may not be called “emerging” anymore, the mood is still present and represents a large portion of our culture and church.

For these, the search has brought them nothing but confusion and disillusionment. There are so many things they used to believe—used to passionately believe—that they no longer believe. They are embarrassed about their former commitments. Because of this, the best approach to theological issues is a sort of “soft agnosticism.” In other words, people are not saying that truth does not exist, they are simply saying that they don’t know what it is and they don’t think you do either.

As a coping mechanism, theology is distanced from “practical” (Christian) living. Orthodoxy (right thinking) is disassociated with orthopraxy (right living).

A few words of advice for those who find themselves here or heading here:

1. There is no way to distance yourself from theology. Even the belief that theology is impractical for Christian living is a theological belief. One would have to assume quite a bit about theology in order to make such an assertion. Agnosticism is a theological stance, and quite a complex one at that. You are a theologian, whether you like it or not. The question is, can you give sufficient warrant for your beliefs?

2. No one can live rightly without believing rightly. Most fundamentally, people act according to what they believe. As the old saying goes, “You are what  you eat.”  A better version of this is, “You are what you believe.” Just because there is the possibility that you could be wrong, this does not justify an apathetic attitude toward theology. I appreciate people’s timidity, and I wish that some people had more. We dare not take the Lord’s name in vain. Silence is often better than speaking. But to harden oneself into such a philosophy is the most dangerous proposition of all. When our practice is devoid of foundational beliefs, we will be carried about by every wave and current of thought, simply ascribing to that which seems most pragmatic at the time. Today, it is faddish to be apathetic toward theology. But this is not Christian. The Christian worldview is about theology first. It is about who Christ is. It is about what God has done. It is about following a definite person – one we can point to and distinguish from all others. It is about a definite hope. If you were to take these away, the who? what? why? and where? of our practice is void. Therefore, our practice is void.

Christianity rests primarily on what we believe, not what we do. What we do is a product of what we believe. Practice without belief does not please the Lord. There is simply no room for it in the Christian life.

3. Get over the fear of being wrong. Like the jilted lover who fails to seek a new relationship because of the possibility of being hurt (again), many people fail to believe because of the possibility of being wrong (again). We are all going to be wrong about many things. But, there are many things that we are going to be right about. The Lord assumes such. The Proverbs commands us to be wise: “Acquire truth and do not sell it” (Prov. 23:23). You may have been jilted by truth before. Our way is called a “narrow gate.” You may be scared of recommitting yourself to the search. You may think you are beyond commitment. But you must make it anyway.

Who ever said the Christian life was easy? If you are looking for an easy life, join in with the world. There you can find enough apathy. Here, in Christianity, we are called to go against the current. We are expected take a road less traveled. We pick ourselves back up time and time again and continue the journey, knowing that there is a definite destination. The Christian life is about new beginnings.

My encouragement to those of you who are sick of theology is to stand back up. Let go of the assumptions that led you to think that it must always be easy. The truth is like gold, fine gold. The truth will produce in you fruit that the infertile ground of apathy cannot ever yield. Don’t commit yourself to the mire of disillusionment. So you have been wrong before. So what? So you have been misled before. So what? So you have fallen and been humiliated. So what? What did you expect? Get up. Just be careful. Learn from your mistakes. But open yourself up again to commitment. Don’t live a life of apathy. Take the road less traveled.

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. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    8 replies to "When You Are Sick of Theology"

    • Mike O

      “In other words, people are not saying that truth does not exist, they are simply saying that they don’t know what it is and they don’t think you do either.”

      That almost describes me. Almost. For me, I do believe truth exists, and I *think* I’m right about it but I’m open to the possibility that I am wrong. There are followers of Christ who are a lot smarter and wiser than me who disagree with me on a lot of things. And there are followers of Christ who are a lot smarter and wiser than me who *agree* with me on a lot of things.

      As Chesterton once said, “… I have attempted in a vague and personal way […] to state the philosophy in which I have come to believe. I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.”

      “My theology” did not come from me, it came from the Bible, and the holy spirit, and from fallible people who are a lot smarter than me who helped me put the pieces together. And from fallible me.

      So, back to the point – I wouldn’t say I *don’t know* what truth is, I would say I *think I know* what truth is (orthodoxy). And I live my life according to it (orthopraxy).

      But I could be wrong. And so could everyone else.

      In fact, I *am* wrong, and so *is* everyone else. Who are we that we, as mere humans, think we should have an unflappable handle on how God works? It’s not that people don’t *know* what the truth is, it’s that we *argue* about it, jot and tittle, while we should be about our business.

      If theology – and being right about it – *consumes* you, it’s out of balance. If theology – and being right about it – *guides* you … fallible you … you are well on your way to doing the business at hand.

    • Mike O

      with that said, there are people for whom rightly dividing theology *is* the business at hand. I get that. For the CMPs and whoever-elses of the world who are called to rightly divide theology, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!

      That’s just not my business at hand. For the call God has placed on my life, it’s OK – even mandatory – to not be so sure of my thinking. In the end, Jesus is Lord and there is a lost world that needs him. Whether “believes” in John 3:17-18 means “mental assent” or “total dependency” – I know my theology on that and I live and talk as if that is how it is. But in the end, whether I’m right or wrong on that point (for example), it doesn’t matter. All that matters is, did I do what Jesus asked me to do as rightly as humanly possible. If I can answer ‘yes’ to that question – even if I’m wrong – Jesus and I are OK.

    • theoldadam

      Good theology makes it possible to get the right stuff from your brain to your mouth, so that you can tell people about Christ.

      It’s important. But thankfully, we aren’t saved by it.

    • C Barton

      Yep! Sometimes my brain hurts from study and I just need a hug. God redeems our whole heart, which means our emotional life as well as the intellectual. And frankly, the word, “Theology”, can evoke cold chills when sometimes we just need to feel better. Can theology do that, too? David seems to think so. Jesus seems to think so. Paul seems to think so, in many words.
      Maybe elemental rituals and blind tradition are the old crusty wineskins, and genuine theology is the new and vibrant wine and water of the Word, refreshing us and comforting us, as promised in the Holy Spririt. I think so! God has a heart, too.

    • ruben

      I came to a point in my life when I puposely decided to unlearn theology. By theology I mean categorizing Bible verses, views on eschatology, salvation, etc. I decided I needed to know God and find Him in my life and not so much in my head (it was killing my soul to be always thinking and to think that that was the only way I could find God). I have been labelled emerging before but this has nothing to do with that, just someone trying to know God with my heart and soul and not just my mind. I realize my definition of theology is different from Michael, as Michaels’ definition would include my search for simple knowledge and love for God as part of theology.

    • C Barton

      The worldly wise say, and somewhat persuasively, that if we all got together for some common cause, like world hunger, it would be fixed quickly.
      But God tells us that not all problems are solved by human effort alone. Remember the Tower of Babel? Big mistake!
      Theology is our solace in God’s self-revelation to us so that we can know Him and the healing that only He provided in Christ. Delight yourself in this awesome feast of knowledge and revelation!
      And know, like David, that you do not face the dark alone.

    • […] WHEN YOU’RE SICK OF THEOLOGY I know, blogs like Alien Citizens can sometimes make you sick of theology. But don’t quit yet. Michael Patton encourages you to get back up again: “The truth is like gold, fine gold. The truth will produce in you fruit that the infertile ground of apathy cannot ever yield. Don’t commit yourself to the mire of disillusionment.” […]

    • Lora

      Enjoyed reading this article….thank you for addressing the issue of pragmatism…..

      Believe it or not, Ayn Rand has an excellent definition of pragmatism:

      By itself, as a distinctive theory, the pragmatist ethics is contentless. It urges men to pursue “practicality,” but refrains from specifying any “rigid” set of values that could serve to define the concept. As a result, pragmatists—despite their repudiation of all systems of morality—are compelled, if they are to implement their ethical approach at all, to rely on value codes formulated by other, non-pragmatist moralists. As a rule the pragmatist appropriates these codes without acknowledging them; he accepts them by a process of osmosis, eclectically absorbing the cultural deposits left by the moral theories of his predecessors—and protesting all the while the futility of these theories.

      The dominant, virtually the only, moral code advocated by modern intellectuals in Europe and in America is some variant of altruism. This, accordingly, is what most American pragmatists routinely preach . . .

      In politics, also, pragmatism presents itself as opposed to “rigidity,” to “dogma,” to “extremes” of any kind (whether capitalist or socialist); it avows that it is relativist, “moderate,” “experimental.” As in ethics, however, so here: the pragmatist is compelled to employ some kind of standard to evaluate the results of his social experiments, a standard which, given his own self-imposed default, he necessarily absorbs from other, non-pragmatist trend-setters . . . When Dewey wrote, the political principle imported from Germany and proliferating in all directions, was collectivism.
      (For more info, go to)

      This reminds me of a friend whose pragmatism was more important to her than her professed Christianity. Finally I told her that actions speak louder than words…..she ended the friendship because she didn’t like me questioning her worldview.

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