Thursday, November 08, 2007

Not Everyone Should Talk about God

In today's world everyone seems to have his or her own idea of what God is like. Everyone is suddenly an expert in theology. People say, "The God I believe in would never do that."

The problem is that most of these people have no idea what they're talking about.

It would be like me giving my opinion about the proper way to do a heart by-pass operation. At best, no one would pay attention. At worst, someone could get hurt and even die.

Chris Bounds has an excellent article summarizing some of the thought of Gregory Nazianzus.

Here's the condensed version.

  • Not everyone should philosophize about God.
  • This should be limited to those who have been prepared intellectually.
  • It should also be limited to those who are living a holy life or pursuing it.
  • It should be restricted to those who can handle "holy things in a holy manner."
  • Theological discussion should be limited to situations when there is time to do it justice.

He also has some things to say about the appropriate audience and the appropriate topics for theological discussion.

So what do you think? If he is right, does that mean that we should shut down 98% of the theology blogs?

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

9 comments:

M. Pease said...

I think that the premise of this post is deeply flawed. First, how would one go about stopping it and, if that proved possible, who exactly would get to choose those who were permitted to speak? Every point on the list has this in common; there must be a human arbiter (since God has not taken steps to prevent our incessant blathering) and no human should have that kind of power.

Generally my concern is not that people talk but that those who are claiming to be Christian are ignorant and sloppy in their representation of the person of God and the meaning of the Gospel because they were never discipled. Whatever one calls the aftermath of "conversion" it can almost never be called discipling.

sofyst said...

Rod, I understand the heart behind the thought, but I think it is a dangerous path to tread. I think the deepest worry I would have is who decides who is an 'expert' and therefore qualified to talk about theology? I might say I'm an expert, whereas you might say I am not. Some might say people like John Piper is an expert, given his vast knowledge of the Scriptures, whereas some who might disagree with him might say he is not, as clearly he does not know enough as he is wrong about so much.

The same could be said about perhaps Brian McLaren or Gregory Boyd. I personally do not believe I agree with most of what these men teach, therefore my opinion on whether they are 'experts' or not would be deeply biased. While I do view them as incredibly intelligent men, my opinion of their specific beliefs might taint my view of whether they are experts or not.

Likewise, I couldn't help but think of the repeated fault brought to those who believe in the LORDship position. Many criticize this camp as putting too many regulations, man-made regulations, upon the Christian. It seems that this post is doing the same. If a person isn't knowledgeable enough, or isn't devout enough, he cannot speak about God...

The problem, I think, is that while you may be speaking about one specific topic (theology), you cannot help but touch other parts of the Christian life. The main part I'm thinking about is evangelizing. Anyone can, and everyone should, evangelize. But if we begin to say that not all Christians can indeed speak about God, we run the risk of discouraging some from actually evangelizing. I mean, if I am not fit to speak about God, or theology, why on earth would I think I am quipped enough to go talk about His Kingdom or His reign? I don't know enough about God, what audacity to think I know enough about His good news?

This is just my first impression. It is afterall 4:30 in the morning. I will read this again tomorrow, and read the link you provide, and whether I have a recant to offer or not is for God to decide.

I wish you the best, my dearest friend, may Morpheus be kind to you tonight.

awaiting the hope,
Adam

Pastor Rod said...

Mark,

Thanks for your comments.

I'm not necessarily endorsing Gregory's position. I just found it intriguing.

Of course, the title is an intentional overstatement. I wanted it to be provocative. It looks like it worked.

You make an excellent observation. According to Gregory the arbiter would be the Church, the official Church.

Yes, a big part of the problem is the lack of Christian spiritual formation.

If we were to find merit in some of his points, we'd obviously have to operate on the "honor system" or use some kind of peer pressure.

Hubert Humphrey once said that the right to free speech does not include the right to be taken seriously. At some point we might have to ignore some blathering about God as utter nonsense and not deserving of a response.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

God Bless,

Rod

Pastor Rod said...

Adam,

I miss our old arguments (discussions). It's a rare thing to be able to speak honestly about what one believes without worrying about the other person taking offense.

Thanks for taking the time to voice your opinion and for doing it so graciously.

Some of my reply to your questions would be the same as those to Mark above. I would be interested in further dialogue on this after you have a chance to read the original post.

I pray that things go well for you. May you find joy and peace as you grow in God's grace.

God Bless,
Rod

Samuel A. Jefferson-Edwards said...

Pastor Rod,

I think you're right, as I understand you. In fact, I think you are doing nothing more with this post than James did with his solemn warning:

James 3:1 (ESV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

As for human arbiters, well, Christ provided for that in the Church. That's why the Church ordains elders, is it not? The Church decides who is an "expert" and who is not and many churches will be judged, I think, harshly for "laying hands" too quickly and without thorough examination.

As for blogs, the admonition remains and God will be ultimate judge of all those who take it upon themselves to speak for Him, as James so ably noted through the Holy Spirit in the verse I quoted above.

As for those of us who read these blogs, we are admonished to "prove all things and hold fast to that which is good."

I think I'll hold fast to this post. Good stuff.

M. Pease said...

Not fair Pastor Rod, I think that if you don't "necessarily endorse" the point of view of a post, that you should state in the post that this is the case.

Samuel, I must disagree with you.

First: If the idea had been stated in terms of a warning similar to those in James, I wouldn't have had a problem. The post is not a warning but expressing the idea that it should be enforced as would a law. Use of the terms "limit" and "restrict" in this context expressly imply that.

Second: While Jesus gave authority to the apostles to carry out the work of the kingdom, nothing was said about their creating new laws and enforcing them. The Church (that is, the body of believers) simply has the authority to represent Jesus to the world.

Third: As pointed out by sofyst, we have a plethora of authorities within the Church from which to choose and many of those authorities contradict each other. What constitutes the proper authority for you might not do it for me, and further, neither of our choices would do it for a Jew or a Muslim. This discussion was not necessarily limited to Christians, though that's how it has been treated.

I do not believe that there can be an easy answer here.

Pastor Rod said...

Mark,

I didn't intend any deception. My post ends with, "So what do you think? If he is right, does that mean that we should shut down 98% of the theology blogs?"

I can see why you might assume that I agreed with everything Gregory said, but my comments at the beginning are far short of an endorsement.

I agree that there is no easy answer. That is the main reason I offered this, to provoke some reaction. Maybe I should have been more clear about my intent.

Thanks for voicing your opinion. That's what I was hoping for.

God Bless,

Rod

Samuel A. Jefferson-Edwards said...

I appreciate what you are saying m.pease. Perhaps we are not as far apart as it seems. I was speaking within the context of the Church, not society as a whole. Within society as a whole I am a free speech guy all the way, but within the context of the Church I am most certainly not. I would not think, for example, that Pastor Rod would be a responsible pastor if he allowed a Muslim to speak in his worship service. The Muslim should be and would be, I hope, censored. Neither would an individual be ordained, most likely, in Pastor Rod's church if that individual's theology was significantly different from that of the church as a whole. When an individual speaks within the Church, he speaks for and with the authority of Christ as a gift of Christ to the Church. In the NT Church, would-be elders were screened and ordained and subsequently repudiated publicly and even dismissed if they were found to be false teachers. All of this implies the authority of the Church in ordaining and censoring teachers.

Of course, as you stated, there is so much ecclesiastical difference in existence today that just about anyone can speak in the name of Christ with or without ecclesiastical authority. And that makes much of this a moot point.

I didn't think that Pastor Rod was advocating silence when it comes to religious speech. I took it as a provocative way to point out the enormous responsibility one takes upon himself when he presumes to speak for Christ. I could have interpreted him wrongly, though. I have been known, even, to misinterpret Scripture wrongly in the past--though I am sure I am 100% right in all my understanding at the moment. (ahem) :^)

Pastor Rod said...

Samuel,


Thanks for your comments here. I appreciate your contribution.

I think you got my position pretty accurately in your last paragraph.

God Bless,

Rod