Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Repost: The Immutability of God: Its Truth and Relevancy - Introduction

All theology is practical.  Everyone is a theologian.  Therefore, right theology becomes the basis for right living making theology the most important topic to discuss.  Contrary to what many postmoderns want us to believe, orthodox theology is not out of date and irrelevant.

Brian McLaren has frequently referred to theology (especially systematic theology) as "freeze-dried."  He believes that theology as we know it is the remnant of modernism.  Through his protaganist Neo, McLaren describes theology as “shrunken and freeze-dried by modernity.”  Christianity, as a result is “diced through the modern Veg-o-matic.”*  Such theology is theology that has everything figured out.  Systematic Theology is particularly distasteful to the Emerging Church because it suggests that Scripture can be fully understood and put in a formula and systematized with the apparent assumption that the theologian can know God almost exhaustively.  McLaren writes:

This rebuke to arrogant intellectualizing is especially apt for modern Christians . . . These . . . [are] known popularly as systematic theologies . . . At the heart of the theological project in the late modern world was the assumption that one could and should reduce all revealed truth into propositions and organized those propositions into an outline that exhaustively contains and serves as the best vehicle for truth . . . In Christian theology, this anti-emergent thinking is expressed in systematic theologies that claim . . .  to have final orthodoxy nailed down, freeze-dried, and shrink wrapped forever.**

Instead of a freeze-dried theology that claims to have access to the complete truth, McLaren and others in the Emerging Church push for mystery, conversation, and community.  He writes:

[In the postmodern world] “Our words will seek to be servants of mystery, not removers of it as they were in the old world.  They will convey a message that is clear yet mysterious, simple yet mysterious, substantial yet mysterious.  My faith developed in the old world of many words, in a naive confidence in the power of many words, as if the mysteries of faith could be captured like fine-print conditions in a legal document and reduced to safe equations.  Mysteries, however, can not be captured so precisely.  Freeze-dried coffee, butterflies on pins, and frogs in formaldehyde all lose something in our attempts at capturing, defining, preserving, and rendering them less jumpy, flighty, or fluid.  In the new world, we will understand this a little better.”***

To McLaren, “freeze-dried” answers to life’s most difficult questions is inadequate in the “new world.”  What postmoderns need most, and what the Church must provide, are not answers to such questions as Why am I here?  Where does life come from?  Where am I going?  What is my purpose? How might I be made right with God? but rather encourage exploration without boundaries or limits.  The Church must aid the community to think and live in a world of fluid liquid, rather than formaldehyde.

So is McLaren right?  Should we characterize theology in this manner?  Certainly in a postmodern age there seems to be little tolerance for deep truths that seem to divide.  The problem however is that McLaren and those in the Emergent Church who try to embrace mystery are revealing their own theology.  Postmoderns may want mystery, but want mystery in a dogmatic way.  Anyone who refuses to speak of theology as a mystery are suddenly labeled old-fashioned, out-of-touch, and irrelevant.

I am starting a new series on the Immutability of God.  The reason?  Its practical and it is needed.  I have said much about the transcendence of the gospel (which theological liberalism must reject) in recent months, but in order to believe in the gospel's transcendence God must be immutable (or unchanging).

What theological liberalism attacks isn't the doctrine of Scripture, the Virgin Birth, the historicity of the resurrection, or return of Christ, what they attack is God's immutability.  They want to argue that God changes and is always changing (or evolving).  As culture changes, so does God.  God adapts to the changing times.  But this is not how Scripture defines God.  Scripture is clear:  God is immutable and is not subject to the fickle winds of humans or society.

I believe that there is no more important doctrine for the church today than this.  If we understand this doctrine correctly, we will avoid many traps in the church, and have full confidence in our faith, in our salvation, and in the God that directs the heavens and the earth.

For more:
Sermon Podcast - April 26, 2010 - The Immutability of God 
Sermon Podcast - November 29, 2009 - The Transcendence of the Gospel
Commentary - Accomodationism Breed Irrelevancy:  Why Liberalism Fails and the Transcendent Gospel Triumphs
Theology - A Fad Within a Movement:   What is the Emerging Church and Where is it Going
Theology - SBTS and McLaren:  A Response to SBTS Panel Discussion
Reviews - "Manifold Witness" by John Franke

*  Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey.  A New Kind of Christian Trilogy, vol. 3, (San Francisco, CA: Joseey Bass, 2001), 130.  The context of these words regard what conservative/modernistic Christians refer to as “personal salvation.”  Neo complains that such language is exclusive and suggests that “we invite by inclusion saying, ‘God loves you.  God accepts you.  Are you ready to accept your acceptance and live in reconciliation with God?’”

**  Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional + Evangelical + Post/Protestant +Liberal/Conservative + Mystical/Poetic + Biblical + Charismatic/Contemplative + Fundamentalist/Calvinist + Anabaptist/Anglican + Methodist + Catholic +Green +Incarnational + Depressed Yet-Hopeful +Emergent + Unfinished Christian,  (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 168, 325.

***  McLaren, Church on the Other Side, 89.  McLaren elsewhere argues, “faith has too often become for us a set of easy answers and cardboard explanations instead of a window into unfathomable mystery and a pathway into an awesome adventure” in McLaren, More Ready Than You Realize, 42.

This originally appeared on my Theology blog available here.

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