Our Commitment to Love (and Avoiding Theological Idolatry)
Given that we have just launched ReKnew, I thought it would be helpful to spend a good portion of our initial blogs unpacking the theological vision of ReKnew. Our goal is to post content to the site at least three or four times a week, with two of these posts (on average) being fresh content from me addressing particular theological topics. The other posts will be things such as videos, quotes of the day, featured articles from elsewhere on the web questions from readers, and so on.
Before I begin unpacking ReKnew’s theological vision in subsequent posts, however, today I want to offer four preliminary words about the theological convictions I’ll be espousing.
First, I want to make it clear from the start that the distinctive theological convictions that I’ll be fleshing out should not be viewed as the beliefs of Woodland Hills Church, where I serve as Senior Pastor. My church’s statement of faith is a minimalistic statement that is intentionally broad, for its purpose is to express only those beliefs that the leadership of this church felt its members needed to rally around to accomplish the vision God gave us. As will be clear in the weeks to come, the distinctive theological convictions that ReKnew is passionate about are both more numerous and more specific than those of WHC, which stands to reason since the call of ReKnew is to challenge believers and non-believers around the globe to re-examine a wide range of traditional theological views. That is, as the name “ReKnew” suggests, our aim is to help people rethink what they thought they already knew.
So, while many of ReKnew’s passionate convictions are shared by many who attend WHC, many others undoubtedly disagree with some of our convictions. Neither I, nor the leadership of WHC, nor anyone on the ReKnew team, see the slightest problem with this.
Second, my goal in fleshing out ReKnew’s theological convictions over the coming weeks is not to provide people with a new litmus test of orthodoxy. While we obviously are persuaded that these theological convictions are true and important, and while we will defend them as persuasively as we are able, our goal is to simply serve the Church and the world by inspiring people to rethink their faith—as I said above. In fact, rather than using beliefs as dogmatic bully clubs with which to beat heretics—as is too often done—it’s our conviction that the healthy and loving way to hold beliefs is to remain open-minded about them, and to discuss them in love.
This brings me to a third conviction about the way we hold beliefs. Even more important to the ReKnew team than the particular beliefs we stand for is the conviction that we are to do everything – including debating beliefs – in love (I Cor. 16:14). As important as theological beliefs are, we are convinced that God is far more concerned with the loving way we defend our beliefs than he is with the correctness of the beliefs we defend. So, as passionate as we are about the importance of the theological vision we feel called to advance, we are even more passionate about manifesting Christ-like love in the way we try to advance our beliefs.
We cannot genuinely debate beliefs in love, however, unless we are getting our “life” from Christ—which is the fourth and final preliminary word I’d like to share. We at ReKnew are convinced that people are created to get all of their core identity, worth, significance and security—what we summarily refer to as “life”—from their relationship with Jesus Christ, and from him alone. By paying an unsurpassable price for us on the cross, God revealed that every human being has unsurpassable worth to him. We believe God’s love, revealed on the cross, is to be the sole source of our self-identity, our worth, our security and our sense of being fully alive. This means we should never attempt to get “life” from believing we are right (or by any other means, such as by how rich or well-respected or attractive we are).
When people try to get “life” from the rightness of their beliefs—a disease that is frankly rampant among conservative Christians—we at ReKnew believe they are engaging in theological idolatry. This is why, as you may have noticed, so many Christians become agitated, irrational and unloving when the rightness of their beliefs are challenged (as do people who are involved in political idolatry). By contrast, when people get all their “life” from Christ, no aspect of their core identity, worth or security is threatened by being proven wrong, which is why they are able to debate theological differences in a calm, rational and loving manner. In fact, they are able to calmly change their beliefs when given sufficient reasons to do so.
As we are now in the beginning stages of getting this ministry off the ground, I want it be known that, while the ReKnew team is passionate about a number of convictions, and while we believe these convictions are immensely important, we are most passionate about avoiding the sin of theological idolatry, and thereby remaining empowered to debate beliefs with the love Jesus showed us on the cross. For we are well aware that, even if it seems you hands-down “win” a debate, you have nevertheless lost it if, in the process of winning, you failed to communicate Christ-like love.
With these four preliminary words in mind, I shall in the next blog begin to outline the core convictions that ReKnew is passionate about advancing. I hope you stay tuned and even join us…
…but only if you are committed to doing so in a non-idolatrous, loving way.
Image by Tom Conger. Used in accordance with Creative Commons. Sourced via Flickr.