I’ll start by apologizing today for not posting much this week – it’s been a busy week at work and at home.
Today’s post is very similar to the previous days’ posts, in that we are going to look at the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection to the Christian faith, but we are going to look at it from a slightly different angle, and we’re going to take it in a different direction.
A few months ago, I was reading the blog of popular Christian author Don Miller. He wrote a post called Having Right Theology Does Not Mean You Know God, and at the time I first read it, I agreed with it very much. I still agree with it very much, because the overarching point he makes in it is that the most important part of becoming a Christian is a relationship with the person of Jesus, rather than the right ideas (theology) you have about Jesus. Miller says “I do not believe [right theology] has any agency to convert anymore than directions to the doctor’s office has the power to heal.” Now, a few months later, as I read his post, I can’t help but ask myself how important right theology is to the Christian faith. Are our beliefs really all that important?
Now, I must point out that Don Miller didn’t say that having bad theology was okay, as long as you had a relationship with Jesus. I think what Miller was trying to say is that the most important thing is to have a relationship with Jesus, and that having the right ideas about Him comes later. The conversion itself is based on relationship, not head knowledge. It starts in the heart, and then as you continue in your relationship with Jesus, you are affected in such a way that it moves to your head. I might be wrong about what Miller is saying, but that’s how I took it. In some ways I like this – it makes a relationship with God sound much more appealing than reading a dull book. But at the same time, I wonder how much this kind of thinking leads a person to a faith based on experiences and not on truth.
Human experience is a dangerous thing. Relying on only your experiences to guide you into truth is like relying on your experiences to guide you out of a dense forest. You can try your best to remember what trees you’ve already passed and which paths you’ve already taken, but chances are you will remain lost. In order to get out of that forest, you would be better off having something that was absolute – a compass or a map. God has given us something absolute in His Word – the Bible. And this is where theology comes in.
We talked the other day about how some people claim to be Christians, yet also deny that certain things are true, such as the resurrection of Jesus. Voddie Baucham quoted the very influential Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong, as saying
…I do not believe that Jesus entered this world by miracle of a virgin birth or that virgin births occur anywhere accept in mythology…I do not believe that the experience Christians celebrate at Easter was the physical resuscitation of the three-days-dead body of Jesus, nor do I believe that anyone literally talked with Jesus after the resurrection moment…
Can this man be a Christian, yet deny the most central truths that the Bible proclaims about Jesus? Can he truly deny the resurrection, and still claim to be a believer in any sense of the word? The Apostle Paul would say no. When the Corinthian church started questioning the truth of the physical resurrection of the dead, he told them this:
12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)
Paul makes it clear that you must believe in the resurrection of Christ, or else our faith is useless, we are still in our sins, and we will perish, both physically and spiritually, at our deaths.
So this begs the question – is it important what we believe? Is there truly a “right theology” that is necessary for the Christian faith? I do not deny that someone can have a relationship with Jesus, yet have completely wrong ideas about Him. I believe people have relationships with each other, yet have completely wrong ideas about each other. This is one of the reasons for our incredibly high divorce rates! But just as a married couple who has the wrong ideas about each other ends in divorce, wouldn’t someone who has the wrong ideas about Jesus end up splitting ways with Him, once they found out the truth (if they didn’t like the truth, that is)?
So, although I’ve done this in the past with absolutely no response, I’m going to try again. I’m going to ask for feedback in the comments. How important is having right beliefs to the Christian faith? If you think it’s very important, which beliefs are essential?