Why We Need (Better) Theology

by Sep 30, 2010

This week I’m at the Acts 29 Church Planter Boot Camp in Seattle. I’m assessing potential church planters and enjoying some great fellowship with a bunch of guys who have a passionate love for Jesus, an unshakeable commitment to his Word, a heart to see lost people saved, and a hunger for meaty theology.

That’s rare. Knowing what you believe (and why you believe it) is something most people in our culture just don’t value. According to a Pew Forum study released this week, 86% of Americans say they believe in God but only 2% could answer 29 out of 32 basic questions about the Bible. Less than half knew that the Golden Rule isn’t part of the Ten Commandments. In fact, the study found that atheists know more about Christianity than the vast majority of Christians do.

“People say, ‘I have a personal connection with God and that’s really all I need to know.’ Who am I to argue?” says Pew’s Alan Cooperman, a co-author of the report.

Paul tackles a similar question in Romans 10. He’s been talking about the people of Israel, and how they missed the mark because they pursued God their own way. He says, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.”

That’s a scary thought. It’s possible to have a zeal for God and still not be saved because you don’t have knowledge!

And Paul knows about zeal. He says in Galatians 1 that before he was saved by Jesus he was “advancing in Judaism beyond many of his own age,” and that was because he was “so extremely zealous.” He knows from experience that it’s possible to have a passion for God and still not find him because you don’t have knowledge.

Now, it’s not that Paul is putting zeal against knowledge, because just a little later, in chapter 12, he’ll tell the Romans, “Do not be slothful in zeal, but be fervent in spirit.” He wants us to have both!

He wants us to have such a fire for the Lord that it gives us chicken skin. But that passion has to be guided by the right beliefs, or else our zeal can become a dangerous thing. So dangerous that it can keep us from being saved.

Theology matters because eternity might depend on it.