Good and bad theology

I’m preparing a podcast this week on good theology. Psalm 11 may offer some reflection material for me.

There have been many times someone from church has shared some “Bible thought” with me. These are the ones they have found online or heard from another online preacher. Most times, they’re harmless. Not quite biblical, maybe, but nothing that disparages faith in Christ. Then there are some quotes or illustrations that I can’t help but think, “That’s not good theology.”

Good theology is important because what you say about God is important. And what you say about God stems from what you believe about God. All that encompasses what theology is. So, even if you don’t consider yourself a practiced theologian, you still think about God.

Not that it’s anything new, but a lot of not-so-good theology has surfaced during the pandemic. I hear bad theology employed in the fight against using masks, for example. The repeated theme is faith over fear. Of course, on the surface, by itself, that’s something we can affirm.

David takes this approach in Psalm 11.

You have to recall that this psalm has context. It isn’t a generic word about faith. David was facing danger from King Saul. The psalm includes words from David’s friends. It’s their advice to him in this tumultuous time. Their advice is to “Flee like a bird to the mountains.” In other words, run away! Run far away from the danger you’re facing.

David’s response is a bold emphasis on God’s power. His friends feel like the foundations of the world are being destroyed. David knows God reigns from his throne in heaven. The Lord looks over the righteous and promises they will see God.

So, David tells his friends he will not run away to the mountains because he trusts God.

Now, good theology says that God is faithful. That’s easy enough to recognize. Bad theology takes what is true and runs in different directions.

In this case, bad theology would be to take the good theology of Psalm 11 and prescribe David’s actions to every situation. This is what I hear that rubs me the wrong way: I don’t need to wear a mask because I have more faith in Jesus than I do fear of a virus.

Let’s recall and acknowledge the mask conversation has context, too. And, to be clear, this isn’t just about masks. Bad theology creeps into a lot of our thinking if we’re not careful. Theology, good or bad, has consequences and that’s what we need to be mindful of.

It isn’t wise to take David’s actions in Psalm 11 and apply them to every situation. That is, run to danger every chance you get because you have more faith in Jesus. David didn’t even do that. There were times he did hide from Saul.

Good theology teaches and affirms our trust in God. Wisdom comes from good theology. Bad theology tempts us to test God. One way you can tell if it’s bad theology is if it affirms you and what you think more than it does God.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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