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Jamie Johnson
November 1, 2010

When Paradigms Become Pharisaic

Was Jesus really about the lofty theological paradigms and documents of the historical church? Certainly they are about Him, albeit not perfect in their understanding of Him in all instances. There are many good MAN-made contributions, but they are still that - man-made and imperfect. Much of what these paradigms and documents contain have a direct and conclusive correlation with Scripture, but are themselves not inspired God-breathed Scripture. Yet, some treat their doctrines, history, etc., in as high regards as and even higher than Scripture itself. They spout off lofty terms and grand theological paradigms. Even if I agree with what they say, I must ask myself, "Is that what Jesus was really about?" Were the poor and the masses to whom He preached about that? It seems that often it was the heady and educated Pharisee crowd that received the rebuke.

The Pharisees were the educated ones, the cream of the crop in their society. Jesus rebuked them. The poor, the lame, the adulteress, the blind are those whom Jesus reached to and touched. I would be shocked if they even had the equivalent of a middle-school education. Obviously, historically, they did not have the complete Bible nor the theology of Reformation or other sources at that time, but even if they did, would they grasp the grand theological teachings of Reform theology on an intellectual level? In John 6:29, Jesus said the work of His Father is to believe in the One Whom He has sent. Simple, not lofty. Clear, not intellectual. Humble, not pompous or arrogant. Simply believe.

I certainly am not promoting being uneducated theologically. Much of my writing dives into the theological both deep and grand and I myself agree with most things in the Reformed tradition. We should train toward deeper and grander understandings of Christian teaching. However, ultimately, we should aim to strive for Christ as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I recall a conversation I had with my barber and a fellow patron there the other month. The patron was discussing a brother who was so into his theological paradigms that he defaulted to the terms and theological models as much if not more so than Scripture itself in promoting his ideas. The patron would ask him, "What about..." some instance in Scripture and the brother would begin spouting off some doctrine. While we should embrace much of good theological models, we should be promoting Jesus and pointing persons to the Bible. Those of a Reformed or Anabaptist or Whatever-Theology-Label background will not be the only ones in Heaven. There will be Calvinists, Arminians, paedobaptists, credobaptists, Hebraic, messianic, high church, evangelical, post-trib, pre-trib, etc., in Heaven in fellowship together in one mind and one Spirit and with the theological questions answered and in agreement (at least the ones that matter). I'm sure all of us will find our preconceived theological notions on some issues corrected! The ultimate criterion for Heaven is that God has saved the person and this will be evidenced by a trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone for salvation. It's not about what you know, but Whom you know. Do you know Him?

Certainly dive into the deeper teachings. I spend much of my writings doing that much. Understand Calvin. Understand Arminius. Understand the Westminster Catechism. However, ultimately understand -- in as much as we can as humans -- the Bible itself and what it says about Jesus. Be like the Bereans and analyze. Dispute the theological teachings that do not line up clearly and conclusively with the Bible. I have tried to do that elsewhere in articles I've written.

When the lost are looking as the Father is drawing them to the Son, point them to the Son. Point them to the Bible. Save the theological hodge podge for later. I have a feeling that Jesus could care less about the terms used or tradition in some regards. He simply wanted belief. He simply wants belief. Often theological knowledge promotes marginalization and arrogance and misses the point when it becomes a form of Christian law.

I thoroughly enjoy diving into grand theological paradigms and dissecting and studying and understanding them, but NOT at the expense of the simple and clear message of the Gospel: Jesus is God and came down as a sinless man and died on the cross on my behalf and He raised bodily from the dead with the hope of new life, rendered dead my sinful nature, securing a position for me in Heaven, and clothing me with His righteousness to His glory alone, and did all of this when I was (and am) helpless and utterly unable to do anything for my own salvation. That's what Jesus was about. That's what Jesus is about. Do you believe it? Understand the theology behind and in addition to it, but do not miss the point with arrogant spouting of theological paradigms while looking down your nose at those who differ or lack understanding. See Romans 14.

Remember "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Further, "… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17). We don't see hearts. While the behaviors we see may be indicators, only Jesus knows who is and is not going to Heaven. Do you believe? Are you pointing others to the Gospel or are you muddying the waters with your theology?

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