Theology is the study of God, but in the street use of the word, your theology is what you believe about God. Historically, the Church has based its theology upon the written Word of God, the Bible, with tradition affirming the position which godly men and women have held down through the centuries.
The Church, meaning the body of believers in Jesus Christ of all faiths around the world, is in the world. Men and women who are believers aren’t raised in a hermetically sealed, sanctified environment. They rub shoulders with people who do not share their faith, who think of Christians as “right-wing” or religious fanatics. Christians attend secular universities and watch the same television programs (which, at times, is to their shame) as non-Christians. We read the same history books. We read the same newspapers and magazines. We ride the same buses, trains, and airplanes.
There is no questioning the fact that the church has impacted and influenced society, a leaven that makes a statement about family values, marriage, integrity, and old-fashioned decency. There is also no questioning the fact that society today is influencing the church, but what isn’t clear today is which is having the greater influence on whom.
In our day, something strange, something very sinister, is happening. Society has begun to interpret God in light of contemporary ideas, and when the process is finished, God—whoever “he or she” may be, as society pictures Him—is vastly different from the God of the Bible, the God of history.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…. Matthew 6:9
How far do we go with relevance? Are we guilty of what Paul said we should not do when he wrote to the Romans, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Phillips’ translation puts it, “Don’t let the world force you into its mold.”
The real question has become, “Is the Church changing society; or is society changing the Church? Wanting to be relevant and contemporary, is the Church willingly compromising its integrity, advocating teaching which is a far cry from that held by the apostles and the church fathers?”
I’m thinking in particular of the allegation that contends that traditional Christianity is sexist by thinking of God as Father. This mentality ignores both the example of Jesus in calling 12 men to walk with Him and the practices of the early church which set an example for 40 generations to follow. But, now, we are told that to think of God as Father is wrong. The World Council of Churches and church groups who hold a low view of Scripture now refer to God as “our Father and Mother” and are changing not only Scripture, bending it to conform to the theology of society, but radically changing the words of hymns so that no one will feel left out.
The question which must be answered is, “By what authority can society set aside both Scripture and tradition to rewrite the books today?”
Failing to understand that the Trinity—God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—do not conform to human generation (that is, a mother and father, producing an offspring), we make God in our own image as pagans have done since the beginning of history.
It isn’t a matter of relevance. It is a fundamental conflict of ideologies and purposes. To change that which God deems unchangeable has to be born of a conspiracy that would destroy the very essence of Christianity and reduce it to human ideas and concepts. The world and the church have never coexisted terribly well, and when they make peace at the cost of integrity, it is an illegitimate peace.
Resource reading: Psalm 90:1-17