Wearing the theological name tag and waving that banner with pride.

Not being one   who hangs my faith on a name other  than Jesus Christ I  do very often observe people of different theological persuasions proudly proclaiming they are Calvinist, Arminian, Evangelical, Fundamentalist.Pentecostal Dispensationalist and every other self identifying group in between; however when  you ask them  what they mean by that very often they can’t articulate it or agree with their supposed compatriots as to what defines them as such.

For example many people  who call themselves Calvinist, if  you ask  them if they chose  to become a Christian as an act  of their own free will in cooperation with God’s Holy spirit in the work of regeneration, or if they were chosen by God and saved by a divine act  of the Holy Spirit acting independently of the human will  to bring about regeneration would more than likely say  they chose  to become a Christian. In other words  they self identify as a synergist not a monergist. Not Calvinists at all.  Once more You could ask a professing Calvinist if they believed in infant or adult (believers) baptism. The answer depends on whether  you are Baptist. Lutheran or Presbyterian. For each  of these, and the aforementioned theological groups a lot of pride seems  to go with  the name tag; also a lot of tradition!

My point is this. People put a lot of faith in the denomination or theological name tag  they self identify with. People  put a lot of faith in their theological positions. Its a case of high stakes over and sometimes against the other positions. When people start puffing out their chests boldly claiming  they are this, that   or the other my first question generally is “Yes but are  you saved, are  you born again, have  you repented of  your sins?

My question is framed on the presumption that the person making such boasts actually has a clue  that they are a regenerate child of God. Have  they asked   for forgiveness of their sins and believed in faith  that Jesus Christ paid  the full penalty  for their sins which we call Penal substitution. The subtext if  you will, is what is  your faith based on? Is  your faith in John Calvin, Martin Luther, J. N. Darby, C. I. Scofield, Curtis Lee Laws or Jacob Arminus or is   you faith based in the saving work of Christ? Most of these you may recognize at a glance while others you may not but I digress.

If  you look into  the formation of Christian Theology over the past five  to six hundred years you will find  that  the men mentioned  above have either consciously or unconsciously influenced the way  we think about theology or faith and how  it is practiced. More importantly it determines  the kind of Gospel we preach to others. Most importantly it effects our view of God. I say effects, because  how  we view the person of God reflects how we practice our faith  and transmit our beliefs  to others. Once more I digress.

All  this being said I have to admit that  this banner waving often irritates me no end. Why? Because very often people have no real clue as  to  their own traditions history. Why would I use  the word tradition rather than use  the word truth  you may ask? Truth is something we search out and determine. We come   to know  the truth  through various means but truth  should lead  to an intimate knowledge of that subject and its history. If we are honest  we will admit  that our own truth is not entirely objective, it is not fool proof and most of all as human being we have a fairly slim grasp on the subject matter even when we claim  to be experts in that field. None of us can claim exhaustive knowledge no matter how well researched  we are. There is  always  an element of  the unknowable, the unforeseen and the undiscovered.

However! When many claim  they are experts in the field, when  they claim  to know  the truth or most commonly  they grew up believing their theology because   their experience and research confirmed it was true and it has been passed  down  from one generation  to the next: I kind of get the feeling that they have accepted  the tradition of their ancestors. I say this because when  you start asking  them  to explain what they mean  by  the name tag  they  go buy  they often  revert  to quoting  their Pastor or one of the great Preachers of  the past parrot fashion. When  you ask  them  what did  their idol mean by what their beloved idol said they circle back  to we believe this because or  worse,  they stare at  you blankly or indignantly  that  you  would dare  to questions  their all seeing oracle of truth as maybe being not as inspired as  they  first  thought. Further  to this ask them if they see any flaws in their own theological system.

Okay I realize questioning and criticizing  your own theological system may cause  you to catch on fire or be set on fire  by  your former friends but I would rather burn to death than not admit to the inconsistencies I can see in my own theology. Dr James R, White often quotes someone else in saying “Theology matters“. I agree 100% Good theology as opposed  to bad theology matters. An Honest appraisal of ones own theological position matters, Having well formed doctrine and theology matters regarding its importance in defending one’s position. Not having a well formed theology and doctrine often leads  to poor exegesis. No doctrine and theology leads  to chanting scripture meaninglessly at its victims. Parroting what others  have said without any semblance of what it  means just makes Christians look stupid and insults the God of our salvation.

The truth of the matter is that  the whole truth is only knowable  to the creator, our great  and personal God. Now we can sit on that statement and listen to the crickets chirping while the wind blows gently through the trees or we can take  the risk of investigating our great theological ancestors and ask  ourselves what is the most reasonable or even rational position  to hold.

God in His grace and mercy reveals Himself  to those  who  he calls and causes  them  to seek Him out or seek after truth. It is His banner we should be holding high, it is faith in the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ that saves but  don’t just stop  there. Work out the implications of your relationship with  the Holy Trinity  so   that when  you are asked what   that means you can give witness   to how  it changed  your life and bring glory  to the Father.

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