No Gospel, No (Good) Theology

Posted on June 22, 2021
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

(James 3:13–18)

The 21st century is by far, a unique era: A by-product of the Reformation carrying pixie dusts of the Enlightenment, recycling the garbages of Montanism and Pelagianism through the Word of Faith Movement, while playing the melancholy of Hegel, Kant, Marx, Engels and Lenin and fast forward, affected by a tension of Darwin and Derrida’s views of the society and the universe. The Church, on the other hand, is diversified than ever before; politically, socially, theologically and even, culturally. Whether it’s an old centuries battle between Calvinists and Arminians, Anglicans and Baptists, Reformers and Catholics, or between the conservatives and the liberals, the Church is slowly affected by the world that debunks structures for relativity and theology today has become a concern within the walls. Thus, producing more intellectuals in the modern era who desire a revival of Reformation period among the ignorant faithfuls.

In the goodwill of these intellectuals, there is another concern in the world that becomes even more subjective than before. In the world of subjectivism, there is a tendency to show mercy to those we are familiar with and to whom we could relate to. On the other hand, there is a concern of the ignorant faithfuls who beseech the writings of self-help gurus disguising as preachers and only to preach Christ during the altar call. The gap between intellect-based churches and seeker-friendly “revival” churches broadens, all in the name of orthodoxy (right teaching). One defends the orthodoxy of doctrines and knowledge and the other defends the orthodoxy of love and action. In the beginning, there should not be an existing dichotomy.

As far as having orthodoxy is concerned, it should lead us to the concerns of orthopathy (right affections) and orthopraxy (right living). Without them, we would create unwanted strifes rather than a diversified unity in the Church. Or perhaps, we find ourselves drifting anyone away from the right view of the person of Christ Jesus. We should pay close attention to our goal in theology. With our knowledge, do we aim to disciple the heart and mind to pursue Christ and to preach Christ to the lost, or is it meant to boast of our own intelligence? Is it meant to disarm and intimidate a believer or is it meant to speak life into the dry bones? The Gospel of Christ elects believers unconditionally, irresistibly gives grace and showers love, lest we become the very person who tries to destroy the sovereign plans of God in enlightening those who believes. As Paul David Tripp says, “theology without love is simply bad theology”, bad theology is simply not theology. It’s the devil’s theatrical script for the reprobate.

Theology without love is simply bad theology

(Paul David Tripp)

Pay attention to the theological writings: Do they point anywhere apart from Christ? Do they lead us to love God and in the love of God, able to love people? Do they teach us to show grace and compassion to the lost and the broken? Do they raise us to be humble? If they don’t, we would end up with a character that would shun people away from the truth. Wisdom doesn’t teach people to boast but it breaks us in humility. The more we know, the more we grieve for ourselves and for others. Theology leads to both empathy and sympathy. Our goal, therefore, is to bring the reality of God to the world by preaching Christ as the Gospel, through the Word (in its fullness) and exegetically exposit them to the world by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our theological stand, whether Calvinist, Arminian, Lutheran or Molinist, should first and foremost reflect the personhood and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for the ransom of many, that many will be saved. Studying the writings of the Church Fathers, the Desert Fathers or even the Reformers don’t matter if they don’t lead people to Jesus. Likewise, admiring the words of our favourite preachers and saints don’t matter if Christ is not revealed. As the sinner needs Christ, likewise the saint. When we do theology, don’t forget that it has to be done in the context of worship: The fixing of our hearts and minds to the image of Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Therefore, our theology should speak of Christ as the Gospel and not the otherwise.

The fruit of our theology is preaching Christ in our gracious speech, charitable thoughts and the heart filled with compassion and these eventually leads us to the core of Jesus’ ministry: Being relational. Bad theology exists when we segregate knowledge from character. Be relational, be intentional with grace and truth as we immerse ourselves with theology.