Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 2nd, 2017 by Joel Watts

Does Jesus care about your theology?

Many like to suggest theology, doctrine, etc… doesn’t matter — even to the point of having statements like that enshrined in formulaic paragraphs.

But Jesus actually does care about your theology. If theology is as St. Augustine first noted, the study of the divine (“de divinitate rationem sive sermonem,” De civitate Dei, 8.i ), then this reasoning needs to be proper. It doesn’t have to be exact and our soul’s fate is not dependent upon whether or not we do get all of the answers on the test correctly. However, the reasoning of the mind will transform the heart. This is not merely a Christian principle, but one explored in modern therapeutic models.

Let’s look at this meme.

One, the word “disciple” is literally “student” in the Greek. Jesus was a teacher and his followers were His students. He taught them things — reasoning things about the divine. Those times when Jesus was said to have “opened” their eyes, mind, understanding, He is imparting to them some revelation.

In Matthew 11.28-30, Jesus is speaking about burdens and yokes. This is a rabbinic saying about schools and school curriculums. Jesus is literally saying “come to me, my teaching is easy” as opposed to the religious lawyers who were insistent upon heaping more requirements about the laity.

Jesus is saying that His reasoning about God is actually important.

So… again…. Jesus does care about your theology. He does care about your reasoning about God.

And if you need a larger narrative picture here, think about all the times Jesus used His teachings to counter what He considered non-divine teachings. Why? Because these things matter.

Also, I hope you get the point about literally, because….

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

8 Responses to “Does Jesus care about your theology?”
  1. Unknowingly, Matthew was giving aid and comfort to future Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon missionaries! I’m sure they think of these verses when they get the door closed upon them.

    Matt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and charged them, saying…

    14And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.

    15Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

    Considering that Jesus constantly chastised the disciples for getting things wrong, I tend to wonder if these particular verses are non-historical words of Jesus. Maybe more Matthew’s words of upset over Jewish response to the Gospel. After all, he spent all that time writing about the Nativity Story. Then, when someone rejects the Gospel…upset time.

    • Well, Gary, I doubt Jesus actually said “ye” 🙂 … but unless you are referencing some textual variance or have further evidence indicating the non-trustworthiness of this story, I’m going to lean (strongly) against your concern of historicity due to (1) Matthew (assuming he is the author–as you imply) was actually in the presence of Jesus when Jesus uttered those words–and you and I were not; (2) throughout his record, Matthew offers all kinds of sayings of Jesus that challenge what we might consider correct, or even historical.

      As to the mission efforts of the Mormons and JW’s and their connection with Mt. 10:14-15, … well, given their propensity to twist the truth (much like 2 Pet. 1-3), you are probably right–unfortunately.

      • Oh oh! I have to readjust my reference point. From Wiki:

        “Ye (IPA: /jiː/) is a second-person, plural, personal pronoun (nominative), spelled in Old English as “ge”. In Middle English and early Early Modern English, it was used to address equal or superior people.”

        I do doubt that Jesus thought the disciples were “equal” or “superior” to Him. Although, perhaps I should doubt the historicity of Wiki! 🙂

        • The equal or superior reference must have in mind the “royal” use of plurals. So one monarch to another might say, “Ye are a boor, and we are not amused.”
          “Ye” is nothing more than second person plural (ya’ll ) indicating that the address is to the assembly and not to an individual. It is one case where KJV is a more accurate translation of the Greek and Hebrew.
          All of which does not have squat to do with the point: doctrine matters.

          • I agree. Doctrine matters. The only problem is that every denomination seems to have a different doctrine.

          • Actually, if you will permit me to ask a question, since you are clergy. If I take doctrine of the Bible at face value, and assume that for more than 1500 years, Christian doctrine was defined by the Catholic Church, why would you say Methodist doctrine is correct?

            Don’t get me wrong. I like Methodist doctrine. I also like Catholic doctrine. But it seems like all things considered, the most straight forward doctrine to follow would be Catholic doctrine. Or, first iteration change, Lutheran doctrine. So why Methodist? It seems to be a rather arbitrary personal choice, among many multiple choices.

            I am not trying to be a jerk, since I am going to a Methodist Church. But I probably wouldn’t mind Catholic or Lutheran, either.

          • Legit question and obviously an honest inquiry. As best I can in short space: Much of what we generically refer to as doctrine is actually polity (church order) on which Scriptute allows for variations. These matters are important but not essential.
            The Jerusalem Council established two Christian communities with different practices regarding dietary laws and circumcision.
            Regarding genuine doctrines, the number of points on which the churches you mentioned disagree are few…though admittedly intense. Because we are not perfect in knowledge there will always be some error that every faith community is wrestling with at any given time. God seems to be aware of this. What matters is how honestly each addresses those errors and works toward reform.
            I am leaving the clergy to work for reform in the UMC as laity. I could accept the doctrinal positions of other orders, but I find that–when we are at our best– the Methodist combination of doctrinal fidelty and church order is best for my growing toward perfection.

          • “Regarding genuine doctrines, the number of points on which the churches you mentioned disagree are few…”

            Yes, I think I agree. I tend to think of it as an overarching set of doctrines which are important to me, and maybe a minor subset that I can live with, but don’t necessary agree with. Then there are the outliers that are just rejected as a whole (contained in Mormonism, or Jehovah’s Witness, or Scientology – that are totally outrageous and unbelievable). Then, for me, there are organizational structures that I would reject (for instance, Salvation Army – militaristic structure dreamed up by a leader that wanted to be a “General”.) But denominations falling under the overarching doctrine, and that accept caveats of reason, are all OK with me. Inerrancy is one item I can’t accept. Although if someone wants to believe it, I have no problem with that – as long as they don’t demand it of me for membership.

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