(Lisa Robinson)

I think it goes without saying, that if you are reading this blog on this particular site, you know that we think theology is pretty important. Lest we think it is an academic term, it is simply how we think about God and express that. What we think about God will impact how we as Christians live for him.  We want to think rightly about him according to how he has disclosed himself to us through his word and I dare say tradition.  Our Christianity should rest on simple faith but not simple thinking. We should care enough about him to want to learn about him on his terms.

However, the longer I live, the more I become increasingly aware of just how complex is our humanity. We have a range of influences that have impacted us, forming our personalities, our fears, hang-ups and our distortions.  While I still don’t yet have 100% conviction, I lean towards dichotomy, meaning that humans are made up of material and immaterial parts. The immaterial parts all work in concert together.  So when I say soul, I mean the conglomeration of our immaterial parts – our mind, heart and will.  As a dichotomist, I would say it is essentially our spirit.  Distortions in area, set off distortions in others. Places of hiding and deflection can develop to ward off detrimental impacts. Understanding our humanity and being in touch with it is important.

I have loved studying theology and the bible. But I confess that I have loved it much more than the care of my soul.  But the Lord has taken me on quite a journey in the past few years that have involved understanding where our humanity plays a part.  I am discovering just how much events in our lives can impact and even damage the soul.  I am learning that in our broken condition, we will put up walls and grope for relics of significance to compensate for troubled spots.

What I have observed both objectively and personally, is that our Christian convictions can cause us to lean more heavily on one, even to the neglect of the other.   As in any case, extremes can develop. Having right theology takes precedence over what is going on with our humanity or tending to the care of our soul, puts theology on a back burner.  Neither is ultimately good for the soul.

In the case of theology without humanity, we can become overly focused on doctrinal purity and right theology.  Intellectualized Christianity ensues and only what we think about God is important. I have observed that in some sectors of Christianity, we should not impose any areas of  our humanity in the equation, lest we allow our theology to become man-centered.  So what happens is that we think or feel is of no consequence.

Well the problem with this, is that the gospel’s transformative power is meant to have an impact on our humanity.  And it can’t take root in our lives through correct doctrine alone, but through correct thinking – we are transformed by the renewing of our minds to prove what is that good, perfect and acceptable will of God (Romans 12:2).  There may be things in our life, in our heart, in our thinking that produce a distorted perspective.   If we don’t tend to those areas, we can hide under the veil of right theology and deflect troubled areas unto others. Theological learning and discussions can become an identity or way of escape. Anyone who has engaged such a person knows what I’m talking about. I confess, this has been my own tendency.

However, no matter how rightly we may think about God, good theology doesn’t do much good if it is filtered through a poorly transformed mind.  And if it doesn’t take root within all our immaterial parts, then I’m afraid it becomes nothing more than cognitive awareness of God and his program, which is intended to have tremendous impact on our humanity through the Holy Spirit’s power.  An unimpactful theology is definitely not good for the soul.

On the flip side, the attention to our humanity to the neglect of theology. We can look for what is right and healthy to make sure we are doing well internally.  Now I confess, I have gained a greater appreciation for biblical counseling and applaud so many wonderful people of God who have devoted their lives to this endeavor. So this is no way a disparagement on this sector. But when taken to the extremes, what becomes most important is that we are well and whole.

Now the problem with this extreme, is that it can subject the person to grab hold of whatever theory or technique can work and how think about God can become a side dish.  It can produce an overly subjective indicator to how well we are doing as Christians.  Spiritual formation becomes nothing more than how we feel about being a Christian.  And when how we feel about our Christianity becomes more important that Christianity itself and can subject the person to unstable or inconsistent theology. Being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine is definitely not good for the soul.

We cannot neglect our humanity for the sake of theology. Nor can we neglect theology for the sake of our humanity. Theology and humanity need to intersect and interact.  Right thinking about God can only take root if our soul is in good condition. Our soul cannot be in good condition if it is not impacted by good theology.  They need each other.  And we need to make sure that neither is neglected. It is ultimately good for the soul.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    12 replies to "Where Theology and Humanity Meet is Good for the Soul"

    • Nice! And St. Paul’s Rom. 12:1-2 is of course grand!

      Here is a rather challeging quote from that great Russian intellectual and Orthodox Churchman, the Rev. Fr. Georges Florovsky, and too Christian Ecumenist, historian and theologian. And though I am like Barth always a “Reformed” Christian, and myself an Evangelical Anglican.

    • The Bible is complete. But the sacred history is not yet completed. The Biblical canon itself includes a prophetical Book of Revelation. There is the Kingdom to come, the ultimate consummation, and therefore there are prophecies in the New Testament as well. The whole being of the Church is in a sense prophetical. Yet, the future has a different meaning post Christum natum. The tension between present and future has in the Church of Christ another sense and character than it had under the old dispensation. For Christ is no more in the future only, but also in the past, and therefore in the present also. This eschatological perspective is of basic importance for the right understanding of the Scriptures. All hermeneutical “principles” and “rules” should be re-thought and re-examined in this eschatological perspective. There are two major dangers to be avoided. On the one hand, no strict analogy can be established between the two Testaments, their “covenantal situations” being profoundly different: they are related as “the figure” and “the truth.” It was a traditional idea of patristic exegesis that the Word of God was revealing himself continuously, and in divers manners, throughout the whole of the Old Testament. Yet all these theophanies of old should never be put on the same level or in the same dimension as the incarnation of the Word, lest the crucial event of redemption is dissolved into an allegorical shadow. A “type” is no more than a “shadow” or image. In the New Testament we have the very fact. The New Testament therefore is more than a mere “figure” of the Kingdom to come. It is essentially the realm of accomplishment. On the other hand, it is premature to speak of a “realized eschatology,” simply because the very eschaton is not yet realized: sacred history has not yet been closed. One may prefer the phrase: “the inaugurated eschatology.” It renders accurately the Biblical diagnosis — the crucial point of the revelation is already in…

    • LR, What you touch upon is reflected in part by the following book quote that expands upon the importance of the thinking Christian mind, ergo, the necessity for the practice of good and proper theology, in light of orthopraxy, to wit:

      “The world of popular culture looks very different from the worlds of academia and professional think tanks, yet popular culture provides as much instruction for our daily lives as do the universities. David Letterman, George Lucas, the producers of MTV, and the movers and shakers of Hollywood offer a never-ending series of flashy stimulants that have a profound intellectual effect. Each of us is developing a mind, with which we reason about all areas of life — political allegiance as well as Christian conversion, the meaning of money as well as the meaning of the Bible, the effects of democracy as well as the effects of sin. Who will teach us how to reason about these matters? Who will be our guides pointing us to truth and light? If evangelicals do not take seriously the larger world of the intellect, we say, in effect, that we want our minds to be shaped by the conventions of our modern universities and the assumptions of Madison Avenue, instead of by God and the servants of God. But if we take this action by inaction, we are saying that we want our lives to be shaped by cultural forces — including intellectual forces — that contradict the heart of our religion.”

      Noll, Mark A. (2010-03-30). The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (p. 34).. Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

    • “The ultimate” (or “the new”) had already entered history, although the final stage is not yet attained. We are no more in the world of signs only, but already in the world of reality, yet under the sign of the Cross. The Kingdom has been already inaugurated, but not yet fulfilled. The fixed canon of Scripture itself symbolizes an accomplishment. The Bible is closed just because the Word of God has been incarnate. Our ultimate term of reference is now not a book, but a living person. Yet the Bible still holds its authority — not only as a record of the past, but also as a prophetical book, full of hints, pointing to the future, to the very end.

      The sacred history of redemption is still going on. It is now the history of the Church that is the Body of Christ. The Spirit-Comforter is already abiding in the Church. No complete system of Christian faith is yet possible, for the Church is still on her pilgrimage. And the Bible is kept by the Church as a book of history to remind believers of the dynamic nature of the divine revelation, “at sundry times and in divers manners.”

    • PS…Revelation and Interpretation, by ‘Archpriest Georgy Florovsky’.

    • Sorry, my computer is acting up today! (Or maybe it the guy behind it? 😉

    • And btw, just because we read outside of our own positions. does not weaken our own, in fact we must read, at least somewhat outside our own theological positions, so we can know what is going on around us, in the whole theological world of others! And here I am talking about other real Christian positions. As I believe the Church IS really One – “Indivisible”, but also invisible also. Yes, the Branch idea for me!

    • Ed Kratz

      Fr Robert,

      I’m having a little trouble connecting the quote and your last comment to the topic of this post. What does that have to do with what I have presented?

    • @Lisa Robinson: Of course I was using this quote from this well known Eastern Father: Georges Florovsky, to help press us western minded Christians, seeking the overarching aspect of the theological “essentia” of God! (The “essentia Dei” is always really hidden from us!) The EO or Orthodox always reflect on the energies of God rather than the essence, which really again is unseen by us. Myself, though Reformed, I try to be EO friendly! In fact on the Godhead and Trinity of God, as the Christology of Christ, I am very close with them!

      *Also the blog just before this (by CMP) was surely pressed by several EO.

    • Steve Martin

      This one (by my pastor) fits right in with your post:



    • Another thing comes to mind, which I hope is not too far off topic, is how staunch traditional bents color our theological perspective or lack thereof. If we allow tradition/dogma to become a polemic, further dividing the Body of Christ, where is the love in all of that? If we fail to engage our minds in our belief systems, and rely on blind tradition/dogma without question, we do a sinful thing for the sake of our pride. It is often difficult for us both in lay and professional ministry to be irenic in areas of tradition/dogma that have little to do with Christology or The Great Commission. It boils down to a matter of obedience, what we are willing to do by the command of Jesus Christ, vs what we believe in our traditional bents. If one ascribes to Sola Scriptura as the final authority, then we must use reason to filter out what is really important. This is where the application of hermeneutics kicks in, wherein the question of how does this apply to our lives today in a post-modern society. The two go hand in hand. Unfortunately we often don’t go this route and although intentions may be good, the outcome may not be so good. I say don’t trip, if you have Jesus Christ, it’s all good.

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