A Well Armed Theology

Is a funeral the time or place for a thundering sermon on the need for repentance?  Is it the time or place to confront the alleged unbelievers who will be present with the reality of their mortality and God’s demand that they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior or risk eternal punishment in hell?  One member of a recently deceased parishioner’s family thought so as we sat around the table planning the funeral.  A look of astonished disappointment crossed his face when I said that I would be preaching a message of God’s abounding and steadfast redeeming love, and that, in the midst of our tears, we would be celebrating resurrection life.  
I found a similar theology at work a few nights ago at a community wide prayer meeting in the small rural town where I serve a congregation several times a month.  There were fifty or so gathered from most of the nearby churches.  Many prayers offered up pleaded with God to flood the valley with his Spirit to drive out the devil, who had so obviously taken over the lives of almost all the young people and many others as well.  More prayers asked for strength as believers “stood in the gap” fighting against the onslaught of depravity in all its evil forms.  There seemed to be little recognition that Christians might be the bearers of the light of Christ who, as members of the Body of Christ, might continue Christ’s work of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
I think I understand where this kind of theology comes from, and there is no question that it can be constructed from biblical sources.  But it also seems to me to be a theology of fear rather than hope, a theology that cannot hear the angel’s message “fear not,” and is therefore armed to the teeth to do battle with the devil, constantly expecting the devil to win if anyone lets down their guard for even a second.  One product of that kind of theology is the extension of fear driven, battle oriented thinking into other realms of life: family, politics, the work place, relationships of every kind.  It can suck the joy of living right out of one’s soul, and sometimes it can generate physical danger for others. 

7 thoughts on “A Well Armed Theology”

  1. Many years ago I attended the funeral of a relative of a parishioner. Not only did the pastor lack sensitivity in bringing up the man's affair that broke up his first marriage, he then invited people to kneel at the casket to accept Christ.As one who considers himself to stand broadly within the evangelical tradition, I was appalled and then angry and then dumbfounded.To this day I regret not having a frank discussion with him a few days later. I know it would probably not have helped him, but it would have felt good for me.

  2. I truly appreciate this post. This WAR mentality is disheartening and seems to oppose the work of Christ altogether. I had a discussion 2 days ago about this very topic. Fear driven religion.I accepted Christ in my 20's out of fear, I wish I would have come to know Him through the love of others rather than the impending doom of the world. I enjoy reading your blog.

  3. A classmate of mine had preached a sermon about putting on the whole armour of God. One of the dear old ladies, on the way out the door, suggested he consider what Paul tells us to do once we've pu it on.\”And having done all, to stand.\”The piece these folk are missing, perhaps, in their \”church as army\” theology is the role of the general v the role of the foot soldier. Having \”put on the whole armour of God,\” they want to go slay something. They don't want to wait for the order. Ill disciplined armies never win.

  4. Allan, I am so sorry that things like that happen in the name of Jesus, and I thank you for carrying the evangelical banner in the way that generates reneewal of faith.Jennifer, I looked in on your site and can see what a gift it is to the rest of us. Malcolm, if I didn't say it before, congratulations on your \”new\” ministry.

  5. nothing quite like being on the receiving end of a thrown fist for Christ to influence your view of the saving grace of Jesus.

  6. Well put, country parson…I would think that most of us have experienced the fear tactics – so unlike Jesus Christ. Wish I'd take the time to read your thoughts more often…JG

  7. I just searched for the phrase \”theology of fear\” and got here. And I couldn't agree more with the post.Sometimes this theology of fear and war sounds like they wouldn't mind an inquisition. I mean on their side.Though in the old times their quasi-gnostic dualism would have been the subject of inquisition.I don't want any sort of that institution.This is weird.

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