Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Bad Theology

I wrote this May 30, 2008:

First Amendment and Bad Theology
This may take a while so bear with me. Another of my constant peeves is the misrepresentation of the first amendment by hard right fun-damn-mentalists and those of the political right using religion to seize power not meant for them by our constitution. . .

. . . After I stop screaming I screamed some more because I remembered that this methodology masquerading as a theology has been the musak of my life of southern religion. John 3:16 which promises salvation based on God's love of the world has been spun for decades as if it only contained its latter half, the part that says "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (KJV) Believing gets elevated to a position at least equal to God's love and becomes the guarantee of one's eternal habitation. Believe first and then you can say you are saved.
Over the years two scripturally based correctives have grown in my understanding since those naive days of my childhood when John 3:16 was as commonplace in its assurance of safety as knowing one's phone number. The first is the reminder spoken by Jesus himself in each of the synoptics:
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”Mark 8:35
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:24, KJV.
 . . . In short, faith is not the work that earns eternal life, because there is no "work" that can save us.
. . . One of the consequences of what I call "first amendment abuse," is that actions like using [our military for] evangelization will give another undeserved public hearing to what is always and sadly so just very bad theology.

  • Its bad theology to worry about the salvation of your own life when the world is starving and thirsty and oppressed and imprisoned.
  • Its bad theology to get others to believe like you so that they can be saved. Unless the world becomes a better place you have to ask, "saved from what?" 
  • Its bad theology to try to save your own life, especially if that effort thwarts another's salvation. 
  • Its bad theology to turn faith into a righteous work, to turn human believing into an eternal guarantee.
Granted the cost is higher and the damage greater and religion different but what happens in places like Paris and Beirut and in the skies over Egypt is also born of bad theology.    

We need to look at how we contribute as a denomination, as a culture, and as a nation to a practice of bad theology and without intending -- as far as the average Joe can tell -- contribute to other bad practices from around the world.  

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