5 Theological Topics Making (Some) Christians Very Nervous

Hot-Under-the-Collar-1It’s a general rule of thumb that in mixed company it’s best not to talk about religion or politics.  On the religion side it’s also best to keep your theological discussions for Sunday mornings or during weeknight Bible studies where you can find yourself surrounded with the faithful and like minded.

But not so much anymore…

Positions on a number of theological topics that had once seemed ironclad can now no longer be assumed.  Here are 5 hot topic theological issues facing Western Christianity whose reexamining is making (some) Christians “hot under the collar”:

1. Hell

Could a loving God really send people to hell?  Put another way could a God who identifies himself as love itself cosign a segment of his creation to an eternity of conscious torment?

“Yes!” says much of Christianity, “because he isn’t just love.  He’s also

Holy

Just

Righteous

“Besides, God doesn’t send us to hell…we send ourselves by not accepting Jesus”

…so says the argument.

But a new theological debate has exploded on the scene in recent years challenging those notions and suggesting a number of kinder, gentler alternatives. Books like Rob Bell’s Love Wins and documentaries like Kevin Miller’s Hellbound dare to suggest that God might be even more wonderful, and what Jesus accomplished on the cross more beautiful, than we had first imagined.

…and that is making (some) Christians nervous.

Theological Warning: Suggesting God is “over the top loving” is hazardous to one’s ministerial status and may get the user labeled a “heretic”. Use with caution!

 

2. Rapture / Eschatology

As a kid I had a T-shirt that said, In Case Of Rapture This T-Shirt Will Be Empty.  Cheesy I admit yet it captured the essence of the theological reality many Evangelical / Charismatic Christians adhere to:

The world is doomed and soon Jesus will return to snatch his faithful away just before everything on Earth goes to “hell in a hand basket”.

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With that theology however the gospel message is weakened and wrongly viewed as a lifeboat to rescue people off a sinking ship…with the ship being destroyed in the end.

But theologians like N.T. Wright, writing in  Surprised by Hope , suggests that “end times” theology has distorted the Good News that we are meant to announce.  Wright’s claim is that God is in the business of creating and restoring…not destroying.  Everything that needed to be destroyed (i.e. the work of the devil) was accomplished at the Cross by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

Now we get to be part of the restoration plan in preparation for Christ’s return as sovereign and King.

…and that is making (some) Christians nervous.

Theological Side affects:  Adoption of this theology may free the user from any more church sponsored Left Behind movie nights.  Apply generously! 

 

3. Women in Leadership

Women are the engine of church life!  Ask any pastor and they are sure to respond that it’s the females in their churches that tend to keep things afloat.  And yet the pastor you ask that question of will undoubtedly be male.

The glass ceiling in the corporate world pales in comparison to the glass ceiling in the church.

In many Christian circles women are either forbidden to preach or have a number of restrictions placed on them which males do not.  I was once asked to attend an womans Bible study luncheon.  Strangely I was not invited to speak to the group;  I was only invited to be in attendance and provide the male “spiritual covering” for the woman who was intended to speak.

Ouch!

Fortunately not only are progressive female Christian leaders like Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans helping us re-think  gender theology, but even men from more conservative circles like Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady are trumpeting that;

“in Christ there is neither male nor female”

…and that is making (some) Christians nervous.

Theological Warning: Absolutely none!  (At least none that I’m willing to suggest with my wife standing behind me)

 

4. Biblical Infallibility

For Roman Catholics the Pope has always been deemed infallible!  When Protestants dumped the Pope however, they needed a new infallible to replace him.

They found it in the Bible.

Sola Scriptura!

Now not only was scripture  God inspired and “useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16)

it was elevated to be “the Word” and  synonymous with Jesus himself!

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But a lot of theologians are giving this a re-think and this position is articulated beautifully by Pastor Brian Zahnd in his post Scripture As Witness To The Word:

The Bible is the word of God that bears witness to the Word of God — Jesus Christ.

The Logos-Word became flesh — not a book.

Jesus is God. The Bible is not.

The Bible did not create the Heavens and Earth — the Word (Christ) did.

We worship Jesus; we do not worship the Bible.

The Bible is not a member of the Trinity.

The Bible is not God. Jesus is God.

The Bible is not perfect. (There are parts of it we now regard as obsolete; e.g. Levitical codes.)

Christ is the perfection of God as a human being.

What the Bible does infallibly is point us to Jesus Christ.

There is one mediator between God and man…and it’s not the Bible.

The Bible is the inspired witness to the true Word of God who is Jesus Christ.

…and that is making (some) Christians nervous.

Warning: Adoption of this theology into your Christian faith may cause others to view you as more sane.  Use liberally! 

 

5. Homosexuality

Is there a more polarizing theological shift happening in the church today than the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage?

There is not…

For to long though our gay Christian brothers and sisters have had to hide in the shadows of their church circles,  smiling weakly as they were forced to endure homophobic jokes and rants in silence.

Those that didn’t remain silent were either shuttled off to ministries focused on “praying away the gay” or left the church altogether feeling there was no place for them there.

But there is an undercurrent of theological change focused on affirmation and inclusion.  More and more pastors and Christian leaders no longer wish to be a stumbling block to gay believers relationship to Jesus Christ.

AlanChambersExodusViaExodus

Even Alan Chambers who led the “Pray away the Gay” Exodus Ministries publicly apologized last year to the gay community and admitted that the techniques of their “gay” rehabilitation were manipulative and destructive.

It’s a difficult issue for many Christians but if a choice is to be made let it be made on the side of grace and compassion and not judgement and exile.

I believe that is the choice Jesus would have us make…

…and that is making (some) Christians nervous.

Warning: Application of this theology may cause a sudden drop in speaking engagement invitations.  Consultation with your spouse and financial planner is advised!

Well there you have it.  Five theological topics that are guaranteed to have a number of your Christian friends getting hot under the collar.

Advisory: When sharing this post, be gracious and compassionate

Peace,

Steve

 

7 comments

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  • I no longer serve in any leadership role at church because of my church’s position on women in lesdership. Once I did my own independent study, I realized that I believe women are qualified to fill all pastoral and leadership roles and that my church’s practices are inconsistent, e.g. we aren’t letting women teach or serve as eldrs but their heads are uncovered. (One example). I respect a church’s right to believe this way but I can’t and don’t agree with it and therefore can’t in good conscience serve in a leadership role myself.

    • Steve

      Reply

      Those are difficult decisions to make Bob. I understand. Does the relational connections at your current church dissuade you from seeking out a fellowship that you would feel able to serve in leadership?

  • We are founding members and Susan (my wife) works there as the Controller. I’m at peace with it, really, and for now can agree to disagree. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that none of us has it all right. And nobody’s asking me to be an elder. But I won’t lead lead small groups anymore because of this difference of opinion.

  • Tim Harvey

    Reply

    I like this article. I would just like to point out that Catholics have not ‘always’ considered the Pope to be infallible as you suggest. In fact this is a very recent (comparatively) doctrine which most of us have never accepted. Also it’s not about him ‘being’ infallible but speaking infallibility on a very narrow range of subjects. You only ever hear non-Catholics talking about this unfortunate teaching. In 47 years I have never heard it mentioned in my church.
    Best wishes, Tim

    • Steve

      Reply

      Hi Tim, Thanks for the clarification. My example of the pope was indeed a very general representation of the “papal infallibility” doctrine.

  • Alison Kennedy

    Reply

    Accepting and loving gay church members is not the same thing as accepting their sin. This needs to be clarified. A problem in our churches today is we don’t hold hold people accountable for anything! Having an affair with the youth pastor? Ok. Addicted to cocaine? Ok. Living in an openly gay relationship? Ok. No. Not ok. Jesus called people to repent of their sin, and the church must do the same. To call people to be holy is not unloving. To accept sinful lifestyles as the norm within the body of Christ is not love.

  • Innocent Adiele Okpara

    Reply

    I think admitting gay as a way of life is obviously against the principles of Jesus’s teachings and natural laws.It lowers and compromises the moral teachings of the church and this should be abhorred.It is even a shame to be named among believers.Jesus Christ requires the church to repent of all sins,I belief HIS grace can lead us all to repentance if we cooperate with it.

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