From Where Does Bad Theology Come?

If you think about it, the world is full of untrue, unsound, unbiblical theology. It is important we know where it comes from, so we can better understand it, speak against it, and protect ourselves and others from it.

What is Theology?

Just so we are on the same page,

Theology simply means the study of God.

In case you are wondering, everyone is a theologian. I say that because everyone has an opinion about God. Whether He exists or not, who He is, how He acts, how He thinks, how He saves. We all have an opinion on those things, which makes us all theologians. Some are good theologians, who do good theology. Some are bad theologians, who do bad theology.

What is Bad Theology?

Bad theology is basically anything that is contrary to how God has revealed Himself in His Word. It can range anywhere from God doesn’t exist, to God accepts us based on our works, to all roads lead to God, and anywhere in-between and beyond. So when we aren’t presenting God as He reveals Himself, we are doing bad theology.

From Where does Bad Theology Come?

In 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul tells us when he says,

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” (1 Ti 4:1–2)

First, bad theology comes from deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.

This reminds us that the world in which we live is not just a physical world. It is also inhabited by the spiritual. There are angels and demons present in the world alongside us. We can’t see them, but they are there.

Those who are on the side of darkness have been tasked with deceiving us. To keep us from knowing and experiencing the truth so that we will continue to follow the lies of the world. A good example of this may be found in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Wormwood, who is a junior demon, is being mentored by an older and wiser demon in the art of deception. Throughout the book you see him try to employ the counsel given. It’s a good book. If you haven’t read it, you should.

But here’s the thing, while demons certainly influence people’s theology, they are spiritual beings, which means they don’t get up in front of people and speak or write books.  Instead they have others speak and influence on their behalf.  Which tells us:

Second, bad theology comes from insincere liars who have seared consciences.

I am sure most everyone reading this article has a smoke alarm in their house. If you don’t have one, you need to get one. It can literally save your life. You can think of our conscience like a smoke alarm. It goes off when it detects something that is contrary to God’s Word.

Some people’s consciences are like an oversensitive smoke alarm, making them feel guilty when they have done nothing wrong. While others have consciences like a smoke alarm whose batteries are worn out. A fire can be raging around them, and nothing happens. Not the faintest beep.

That last group, those with worn out batteries in their smoke alarms, are who Paul is referring to here. You guys have all heard the old saying, “If you play with fire, you are going to get burned.” Well, that’s what happened to these folks. They continued to chase after the fiery flames of sin until their conscience no longer felt the sting of the fire around them. Once someone reaches this point, they are able to sin without guilt. They can spread lies and deceit without a second thought.  They don’t feel bad about using and abusing others or twisting God’s Word to match their agenda. They don’t care if what they are saying is false so long as it serves their purpose.

If you have ever wondered how prosperity preachers or those in the more liberal camp can preach what they preach week in and week out, this is how. Their conscience has been seared, so it doesn’t work like it should; it is like a smoke alarm with worn out batteries.

Knowing that there are those out there who feel no guilt or shame for what they are preaching, teaching, or writing, means we have to be vigilant, we have to make a point to always test what we hear against God’s Word. We can’t just accept something as true because it looks professional, comes out of a pastor’s mouth, is written in a book, or appears on TV. There are insincere liars with seared consciences propagating false theology that is birth from demonic influence. So we have to be on the lookout.

In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss the specific theology in which Paul is attacking.

Question for Reflection

  1. When you encountered false theology, what did you do?

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Post adapted from my sermon: Legalism — A Joyless, Worship Killing, Bad Theology We Should Avoid At All Costs

What frees the church to operate as God has called and designed for us to operate?

Not too long ago my mother-in-law introduced me to the musical group The Piano Guys. You can find a lot of their music on YouTube. They are known for playing in amazing locations. One of their videos shows them playing on the Salt Flats in Utah, another on the top of a mountain, and in another, they are playing in a frozen ice castle. Truly breathtaking places! If you haven’t seen any of their videos, you should head on over to YouTube and check them out.

Watching and listening to them play, there is no doubt they are talented. But their talent alone is not what makes their music so amazing. There are a lot of folks out there who are just as talented but aren’t as good. What sets The Piano Guys apart is the time spent practicing. Since they spend a lot of time in practice before the big shoot they are freed to play their instruments in the way they have been designed to be played when it comes time to roll the cameras. The result is an audience left in awe at such beautiful music.

In a similar way, the church must be freed to operate in the way God has called and designed us to operate if we are going to be people who bring glory to God. But that freedom doesn’t come naturally. Something has to take place. What is it?

What frees the church to operate as God has called and designed for us to operate?

In the beginning of verse 8, we come across the word “then” or “therefore”. Depending on which translation you are reading the text says,

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” (1 Ti 2:8)

That little word — “therefore” or “then” — is important because it points us back to the idea that came before. The textual idea before verse 8 has to do with prayer, specifically prayer for “all peoples“, including the governing authorities.

A Restored Relationship

According to Paul, we are to pray for God to work good in the lives of those who lead us and for God to bring them to salvation so that we can live in a persecution free society where the gospel can flourish. The reason we want the gospel or the good news about Jesus to flourish is because it’s what provides salvation. There aren’t multiple paths to God. All religions aren’t the same. They don’t all lead to the same place. Christianity is the only religion that leads to eternal life.

Christianity can claim it is the only way to God because at its center is Jesus, who is the perfect God-man who offered the perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Instead of us facing God’s wrath, Jesus faced it for us. All those who believe that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient to repair our relationship with the Father experience just that — a restored relationship with the Father and eternal life.

A Changed Heart

Along with a restored relationship with the Father and eternal life, believers also experience a changed heart. One that’s free from the power of sin. And one that’s free to live as God has designed and called us to live.

So the church is freed to operate as the God has called and designed because we have experienced a fundamental change in our relationship with God, as well as our heart has been changed from one that is bent on serving self to serving God.

Question for Reflection

  1. Has your heart been changed so that you desire to serve God instead of self?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon What Frees the Church to Operate as God has Called and Designed for Us to Operate?

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What are the Three Uses of the Law?

The Old Testament law is mysteries and difficult for us to understand at times. Since we are so far removed from the time of the Patriarchs and are more closely related to the New Testament church, we may have a tendency to write the law off altogether. Before we do that, however, it is important we understand the law’s purpose or uses. Most theologians agree that the law has three uses.

What are the Three Uses of the Law?

(1) Restrain sin (Rom 7:7; Ps 19:13)

Like a locked door, the law was supposed to keep sin from running rampant by setting boundaries that weren’t supposed to be crossed. Certainly, this use more closely relates to Old Testament Israel. God’s law was meant to make them distinct and it was to make a way for them to live in relation with Him.

(2) Reveal sin (Rom 3:19–20; Gal 3:24)

Like a mirror the law was supposed to reveal how sinful we are, helping us to see that we can’t save ourselves. In this way, the law points us to our need for a Savior.

While the first use is more closely related to Old Testament Israel, it seems this use has value today as well. We are all sinners who need to understand the depths of our depravity so that we will see our need for a Savior.

(3) Guide to living (Rom 13:8–10)

Like a rule or guide, the law is supposed to show us how to live in a way that pleases God.

Certainly, this use is both applicable to the saints of old and us as well. We all need to know and understand who God is and how He would have us live.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you think? Do you agree the law has three uses?

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