We live in a pluralistic society comprised of many nationalities, languages and religions. In order to accommodate all the diversity in such a society, those who shape our institutions have upheld multiculturalism as our most basic defining value. It is our tolerance for such diversity that they feel holds us together. So they call for acceptance of all manner of differences from race to gender to sexual proclivities and even perceived gender identities.
This propensity for inclusiveness has led to a profound inability to differentiate between attitudes and behaviors that are conducive to the well being of society and those that are not. Clearly some behaviors promote such things as strong families, good mental health, peace and prosperity and others do not. But to be dogmatic about these things is considered the height of intolerance. To make them a matter of contention is even worse.
Unfortunately, this attitude has crept into Christian circles, where there is a tendency to accommodate a variety of viewpoints with respect to the meaning of scripture. Yet if the purpose of scripture is to reveal the true nature of God, then any given passage of scripture can only have one meaning — the one God intended it to have. That is, unless you believe God is unsure of what He wants to say or how He wants to say it.
That is why theology is so important in interpreting scripture. A wrong understanding of God will ultimately lead to an incorrect understanding of His Word. Yet the permissive attitudes of society have so permeated the church that it is considered bad form in many Christian circles to insist upon a single authoritative theology when interpreting scripture.
Theology is important because differences in theology produce different understandings of scripture, which, in turn produce different attitudes and behaviors. For instance, the person who believes that the Bible teaches that man is so corrupted by sin that he cannot choose Christ unless the Holy Spirit first imparts some spiritual life to him will feel very differently about the security of his salvation than the person who believes he has enough spiritual vitality to make a decision for Christ in the first place. The first person will believe that he can rest on Christ’s sufficiency in preserving his salvation, since the One who chose him cannot possibly make a mistake. But the man who believes he was the one who chose Christ has no such assurance because he is relying ultimately on his own flawed will. Ironically, the man who has a greater consciousness of his own sin is the one who also has a greater confidence in his own salvation!
The man who relies wholly on Christ for salvation also approaches evangelism differently from the man who accepts Christ of his own volition. He realizes that it is Christ through His word who draws men and women to Himself, and not his own ability to persuade through rhetoric or methodology. So he proclaims the word and then lets the Holy Spirit use that word to bring repentance and faith to those whom God chooses. The other man couches the gospel in appealing terms in order to reduce objections because people make choices based on perceived benefits and a belief in their ability to judge what is best. This attitude produced the “seeker friendly” movement, which spawned the “megachurch” which has placed the appeal of worship in the pleasure of man rather than the pleasure of God. The result is that there are a multitude of comfort seeking Christians rather than sacrifice keeping saints in the pews. That is why much of secular society considers Christians a bunch of hypocrites.
So the difference between wrong theology and right theology can be the difference between a people pleasing church and one that provides a striking contrast between the holiness of God and sinfulness of man. That’s not inconsequential!