My Theological Stance, Briefly Stated ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Theological Stance, Briefly Stated

From time to time I get questions from people who wonder where I'm coming from theologically, and I thought I'd take a step toward answering those queries. Notice I said a step, because I'm not making an effort to spell out every detail of my stance on everything--including the end times, the finer details of the trinity, how salvation actually works, and what heaven will be like--although I could, of course, if I wanted to.

That was a joke, in case you missed it.

The short answer, though, is that I'm a Bible guy. While we don't know everything there is to know about God, the Bible speaks clearly to the things that are essential to our salvation and lives down here--things like sin, hell, depravity, grace, atonement, justification.

The Bible also has clear positions on some secondary-but-still-vital issues like homosexuality, church leadership, a Christian's relation to culture, etc. These things are founded on a commitment to the authority and adequacy of the Bible--which will continue to be challenged by secular thinkers and by liberal theologians, both of whom will need to be lovingly smacked down.

If you're looking for labels, I tend toward Reformed theology, although I don't necessarily get excited about fighting over it and excoriating those who don't like John Calvin. I'm biblically conservative and culturally liberal, in the sense that I think Christians need to live within their cultures, enjoying the good stuff, dismissing the bad, and salvaging the redeemable, in order to know and love the people around them.

Finally, here's a belief statement I wrote for an evangelical site which I've adapted to give a little formality to this "theology" post:

Cultures change, truth stays the same: I believe that Sin is real, that Christ defeats it, that the Bible relates it, and that faith in Jesus is the essence of life and the escape hatch from eternal Hell.

Unity on the propositional truths of God’s authoritative, infallible word makes it possible for us to enjoy a diversity of cultural perspectives and voices. In other words, belief in the Godhead (triune, co-eternal and co-equal), Christ (his substitutionary death and resurrection), and salvation (God’s grace-gift received by faith) makes it possible for hard-sweating jocks, wired hipsters and starving artists to hang out together.

The Bible says to have solid doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16), love other Christians (1 Peter 4:8) and avoid needless divisions (Romans 16:17). Apparently God thinks all these things can happen at the same time—and I do too.
Related post: Christian Spirituality Is--

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Andy said...

Bravo! I think you summed up my belief statement quite succinctly.

Dustin said...

Even though I think you and I would disagree on quite a bit and you would probably label me as one of those "liberal" individuals, I thought you laid out your own personal hermeneutic and theological presuppositions quite clearly.

Well done!

Steve said...

"...lovingly smacked down."


Andrew & Alaina said...

Interesting and well stated! I am curious what makes you characterize yourself as "culturally liberal"?

Ariel said...

Thanks, Andy, Dustin, Steve. I'm happy that something of substance came through despite the brevity.

I am curious what makes you characterize yourself as "culturally liberal"?

Not to be confused with theologically or even politically liberal, "culturally liberal" is my way of saying that I enjoy living in culture (with its indie rock, its blogs, its Lost, its movies, etc.) and believe that Christians are called to identify with and engage the people they're called to reach within the cultures those people inhabit.

Does that help? I'll be glad to clarify further, or answer other questions...

Andrew & Alaina said...

That's exactly what I thought you meant - was just interested to know more. My husband and I would fall in the same category... We are theologically reformed, politically conservative (mostly), and to use your great phrase - culturally liberal. Now, I'm going to go have a glass of wine, listen to U2, and then watch a recently released movie. :)

Tyler said...

Mr. Ariel, I don't know who you are or how I stumbled onto your blog, but you are a rockstar to me. Peace.

Ariel said...

Tyler, you're too kind. But that doesn't mean I won't put your comment in my sidebar as an endorsement. ;)

Honestly, I'm always relieved and happy when someone gets something out of what I write.

duane said...

I like to call myself biblically conservative and culturally liberal as well. One item I would like to see you mention is how this all works out politically. I think Jesus is quite political but most folks seem to believe this would be political like a republican. I believe Jesus would actually be more political like a democrat. Helping the poor. But mostly, I think he would be a radical independent. Your thoughts.
duane in NC

Ariel said...

Hey Duane, good question. There were well-defined political factions in Jesus' day, such as the Zealots, who wanted to kill everyone and let God sort it out, and the Sadducees, who were happy to accomodate existing culture to gain upward mobility. There were "conservative" Pharisees and retreatist Essenes. What's obvious is that Jesus didn't align himself with any party, and essentially contradicted and defied each of them.

So on that front, your "radical independent" take makes the most sense. Personally, I don't see Jesus as aligned with ANY political party. I'm not impressed with the arguments that he would be a liberal (he was too "pessimistic" about human nature), and he was too unconcerned with money and maintenance to be a conservative.

What we have is a mandate to love people and live it out with wisdom. As far as navigating the murky waters of politics, I do think there are issues that have more weight than others. E.g., if it's a dead tree or a dead baby, I'll legislate to keep the baby alive.

What are your thoughts?

duane said...

Thanks for responding. Pretty rare in the blogs I have seen. It is a murky world and it is hard to decide how to vote.

I think Jesus would form a party to help the oppressed, the poor, the marginalized. Something like a cross between Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Abraham Lincoln.

Since I think we should vote, I am leaning toward Obama even though I am pro-life. The lives in Iraq count too. Also things like caps on CO2 pollution.

I wish we would stop farm subsidies and cut the defense budget.

How are you planning to vote?

Ariel said...

Duane, I hear ya. I still don't think Jesus would "form a party" though. That was the expectation of his Jewish contemporaries, and never played along, implying instead that only an otherworldly kingdom could save this world.

Honestly, I haven't decided how I'll vote. I'm almost a "one-issue" voter though, in that the defenseless unborn get the lion's share of my sympathy.

duane said...

Good point. I think Jesus would not form a party, but if he were to form a party it would be more focused on fighting poverty and being non-violent.

I think we are getting a "bate and switch" on the abortion issue. Meaning it is a way to say "look at my family values" when the rest of the values of Jesus are ignored.

Being pro-life is important to me as well but the recent poll analyzing evangelicals had it about like this on the issues:
Health (highest percent 27 percentish)
Gay Rights

I think in this election we will see change as the values of evangelicals begin to include the poor and the environment and making peace. It is not that the unborn are important, it is that the other issues are important as well and are part of the whole picture.

Biblically, Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor. Also the parable about the sheep and the goats comes to mind. Especially, love your enemies and do good to those that hurt you. I think we need to rethink the 'Just War' theory.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife