Saturday, October 07, 2006

On Paper or In Practice

Please don't confuse this with paper or plastic. That's, I'm sure, an important choice in some circles, maybe even more important than this blog topic, but those with that judgment would be wrong. I'm considering the connection or disconnection between belief and practice, or as some might say: Systematic Theology versus Practical Theology.

Everyone should know that Satan probably has the best and clearest doctrinal statement available. He probably could whip out a beautiful confession of faith. And based upon that, maybe he could even qualify for a mission board, since the doctrinal statement is a major feature of some boards for acceptance of candidates. What he wrote on paper, however, would strongly contradict what he actually believed and practiced. More is needed than a good theology.

This is a major point of the book of James, and expressed in James 2:14: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?" The answer to the rhetorical question: It profits him nothing. So having a doctrinal statement doesn't do it for anyone, especially Satan.

A person, in other words, can talk and write a good theology. He can pen or type out beautiful prose with accompanying references. People can read the words of someone and really be edified by them, assuming that they are true and right, completely Biblical. Is what someone writes or says the key matter in theology? James contended against that. Other epistles do as well. God obviously wants us to live it. To God, theology is what we live. It must be right, granted, but if it is right theology lived, then God approves.

Mr. Jason Janz, the owner/operator of his online corporation (by his own admission, not a ministry) called SharperIron, recently wrote this (it is the entire quote) at his business site:
To link musical style with view of God would mean that all those who use contemporary worship have a flawed view of God and theology (in your view). I'm just not willing to go there. This would then make John Piper whacked out on his view of God. In my opinion, he has done more to exalt a lofty view of God than any Christian author in the last fifty years.

Mr. Janz employs faulty logic here to argue his position. First, someone can say he has a view of God, but if hath not works, his view is dead. One's view should affect one's behavior. I'm not talking sinless perfection, but at least characteristic lifestyle that matches the written theology. Second, someone who offers God "whacked out" worship might have a strong doctrinal statement, but how he worships would be a better judge of his view of God. Ananias and Sapphira probably could have written a pretty nice statement of faith, but God struck them dead. Several of the kings of Israel could rattle off God's standards, but worshiped God in the high places. Right God, wrong worship.

The first step to worshiping the wrong God is worshiping the wrong way. Giving God something out-of-line with His character impacts the worshipers more than a doctrinal statement. Someone can preach a strong message that can be ruined by a lifestyle decision. This disconnect between paper and practice is a sinister ploy of Satan. People have long liked a nice talk with a crummy walk. To them its the best of both worlds. You get to be right and yet still get what you want. You get honor-to-God and self-indulgence all in one neat package. Of course, they are incompatible, but that is the danger of all this or the beauty, depending on your viewpoint. The crafty theologian with the orthodox and well-worded creed, who offers fleshly lusts which war against the soul, is everyone's favorite theologian. No wonder.


Anonymous said...

"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed"...
......Albert Einstien

None the less..welcome home!

Anonymous said...

"Right God, wrong worship."

Hi Kent,

the book of Malachi is all about that. It is possible to worship the true God as an idol.

I don't know about Piper's worship, I have heard that it is quite worldly from the fundamentalist perspective. But I know enough about Piper's writings to scoff at Jason's claim that Piper has done more to exalt a lofty view of God than anyone else. Piper has exalted a distorted view of God which has had the effect of exalting Piper (whether that was the motivation or not). Piper's God is a self-centred, narcissistic God who craves attention, not the loving God who sent forth his Son.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks ILA...nice Einstein quote.


I know he's got worldly music. I think his version of theology does relate, even as you are saying. I have read some of his material, enough to know what you are talking about.