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16 Sep '14

Theological arrogance, humility and gracious respect

Posted by T.J. Addington in theological arrogance, theology
It is often hard for us to understand that others in our congregations can have a theological grid that is different than ours. And we hold our theological convictions very closely so when others have significant differences it is difficult for many individuals to graciously respect those views.

I am not talking about views that are outside the definitions of orthodoxy as expressed by the historic creeds of the church. Evangelicals are generally bound by those orthodox beliefs and I am assuming that in these comments.

The truth is, however, that within the bounds of orthodoxy there is a great deal of latitude for differences in theology. This is seen in the reformed vs the non-reformed as an example. Or in covenant theology vs. dispensational theology. And within each camp are those who are more strident than others. So, within the reformed camp there are individuals whose theology is moderately reformed, very reformed and ultra reformed.

When these views are held with humility it does not bring division to God's people. After all, if even the great scholars of theology cannot agree on these matters why should we assume that our version is the truth and that others are untrue? The study of theology ought to engender great humility as it is not possible to plumb the depths of God - we will be doing that for all eternity. Humility understands that we see through a glass darkly this side of eternity and that while some matters are crystal clear many nuances of our theology are not and must be held with humility.

It is theological arrogance that creates division in the church. It is holding so hard to positions that are not central to the faith but are part of our theological grid which we believe and expect others to believe as well. Most people do not understand how their views on many theological issues are determined by their own theological grid that assumes certain matters. Is it possible that none of our grids are completely right as they are simply human attempts to systematize theology. Thus if my grid is rigidly dispensational I may not believe that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available today. If my grid is otherwise I won't understand why people don't see them as operative today. Very much is dependent on our presuppositions and the grids we were raised with or have adopted.

One of the great needs among believers is to spend more time studying the Scriptures than reading about the Scriptures. The more I am immersed in His Word, the less I am captive to a theological grid about the Word. We have our theological gurus who are a gift to the church but if their truth supersedes my own study of the Scriptures I have made a grave error. Equally when I take shots at those whose interpretation is different than mine on minor issues of theology I have made a grave error. Theological arrogance is a sad commentary for believers as none of will find that we understood perfectly when we see Jesus. 

All of us should be clear on the key issues of orthodoxy because the Scriptures are clear on them. The church has historically guarded these fences very well. On the non essentials of orthodoxy the Scriptures are less definitive which is why believers differ. Here our posture needs to be one of humility and gracious respect. And certainly these should not be divisive within local churches. 

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.