Accepting What We’re Taught Without Scrutiny May Cause Us to Believe Things That Aren’t True
In the book of Acts, Dr. Luke writes about the Jews that lived in the town of Berea. He called them people with a “more noble character.” What did they do to deserve this label of respect? This was due to their reaction to Paul’s teaching.
Each day they listened attentively to what Paul said, and then they studied their scriptures to see if Paul’s teaching aligned with it. They checked to see if Paul spoke truth (Acts 17:11).
We should follow their example.
If we don’t we’re likely to hold an unexamined theology. In fact, we’re likely to hold many of them. Sometimes an unexamined theology will turn out to be sound, but other times it’s incorrect.
That’s why we need to carefully examine everything we’re taught about spiritual matters and make sure we only accept what the Bible backs.
Consider these three examples.
Unexamined Theology about Prayer
My parents and my church taught me three key requisites to prayer. We must close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads before we pray. When young me asked why, I received a logical explanation. By closing my eyes, I shut myself off from distraction.
By folding my hands, I kept them from wayward movement. And by bowing my head, I showed reverence to God. It made sense. I accepted this is truth and obeyed.
Yet I don’t find any of these praying requirements supported in Scripture. I’ve not found a biblical command to do these things or even a verse that describes people doing them. But I have found verses of people gazing upward into heaven when they pray (such as Jesus in Mark 7:34).
Even though this isn’t a command, it’s more biblical than the three things I was taught.
Closing our eyes, folding our hands, and bowing our head as part of prayer isn’t in the Bible. It’s an unexamined part of our theology.
Unexamined Theology about Christian Life
Have you ever heard someone say that when you become a Christian, all your problems will go away and life will become easy? I have. I’ve heard it many times over the years, from well-meaning preachers and earnest proselytizers. But this isn’t in the Bible either.
Instead, Jesus tells us to count the cost and be willing to give up everything to follow him (Luke 14:33). This doesn’t sound like an easy life but a hard one.
Another time Jesus says that we should expect trouble (John 16:33). And James talks about us facing trials, as if it were normal. He tells us to accept these with joy and to persevere (James 1:2-4, 12).
Believing that following Jesus will erase our problems and produce an easy life is another unexamined theology.
Unexamined Theology about God’s Provision
Have you ever heard the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” or perhaps stated a bit differently, as “the Good Lord helps them who helps themselves.”? Though it sounds biblical and even offers comfort, it’s not in the Bible either. Yet many people, perhaps most people, think it is.
Though this message of self-sufficiency may play well with the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” culture of the United States, it’s not a biblically sound concept. Instead we’re supposed to seek God first (Matthew 6:33).
Unexamined Theology about Becoming a Christian
Having an unexamined theology about the proper way to pray is of no damaging consequence. However, holding unexamined theologies about Christian living and God’s provision is more significant.
But the most damaging—perhaps damning—is what people teach about how to become a Christian. Many things loudly proclaimed from the pulpit aren’t in the Bible. These include asking Jesus into our heart or saying the sinner’s prayer.
True, these things may be loosely based on biblical teaching, but they aren’t the requirement many people make them out to be. Jesus never said these things, but what he did often say is “follow me.” (I cover this in detail in my book How Big is Your Tent?).
Yet I never heard a preacher teach that all we need to do to become a Christian is to follow Jesus.
How much of our theology do we blindly accept as fact when there is no biblical basis for it? We will do well to follow the example of the Bereans who accepted what they were taught with eagerness but then studied the Scriptures to make sure it was true.
When we do this, it will help us from embracing an unexamined theology that is in error.
Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.