Skip to comments.When Ideology Trumps Theology (instead of liberal/conservative,ask yourself -- is it biblical?)
Posted on 04/02/2010 7:39:22 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Im a glutton for punishment. I could have decided to slouch along the sidelines of ministry and watch the many controversies within the church zip past. Perhaps peeking over the pew on occasion and catching a slight breeze off the mini-tornadoes of debate that exist under the umbrella that is American Evangelicalism.
Public prayer, the roles of women, the role of the Holy Spirit, capital punishment, responses to poverty, HIV/AIDS, divorce, adult or infant baptism, health or wealth . . . . . .
But you see Im optimistic to a fault so I have decided to throw myself into a few of the storms. Sort of like that completely unrealistic heifer in the movie Twister. I decided to ride the windy tumult on occasion. Most recently, I became a Christian environmentalist.
As my position on environmental stewardship (also known as Creation Care) has become more public Ive been reminded afresh of a the very painful way many of us in faith communities go about making decisions. Im convinced perhaps now more than ever that those of us in the church need to put grace and peace before our own agendas. We need to out Gods agenda first.
Well, duh, you might say. This is nothing new. But since the Garden we have put our own agendas before Gods agenda. It seems to be the way of humankind. Since weve not managed to solve this issue yet I believe the conversation bears repeating for the church today. I will use Christian environmentalism as a little test case here.
There are both fans and skeptics involved in the debate over how much energy and resources Christians should place on caring for Creation. Should we care about the issue at all? Is there room in the Kingdom of God for conversations about sustainability, land and water use, resource management, and stewardship of the land?
These are just a few of the current arguments. Every debate inside Christendom has its respective list of questions, fans, and skeptics. Because a Christian response to environmentalism is a fierce debate today, this issue can shed new light on how we engage with ideas and thoughts in our culture today. For example:
When I speak about Creation Care I receive two basic replies. The first is an overflowing sigh of thanksgiving that seems to emanate from the depths of a persons gut. Thank you Jesus that we are finally doing something about this. People say. I am so happy we are finally taking this conversation into the church. They smile.
The other response often goes like this. Hmmm, isnt this a liberal agenda item? Are you saying that you think Obama is right? Isnt this an issue for Democrats?
These are fair questions and this is not to mock any of them. Where I struggle is with the fact that rarely does someone say to me is this biblical?
Is this biblical is the question we should be asking in every debate, on both sides. In a subject area that is rife with pantheists and a real concern that worship of God may be diverted from Creator to Creation, is this biblical is an essential question. But sadly I receive the biblical query in small numbers compared to those who are angry with our current President or what they perceive to be a liberal political agenda.
There is a leadership lesson here for the church that brings me to reflect on my own responses to issues. How often do I let my own ideologies drive my theology? I am usually tempted to consider first how a particular issue or response fits into my own ideological framework rather than asking the simple question, well, is it biblical? And if so, then how do I adjust my life accordingly (whether I want to or not).
My desire to be a good steward of the earth comes from Scripture. Sure, people can lump the passions of green folks like me into whatever camp they want. But to honor the conversation I do my best to let Scripture drive my agenda. This principle applies to other dicey debates as well.
If we let theology drive our ideology we open ourselves up to the horrifying yet humble possibility that we might be wrong. This puts us in a place where the Holy Spirit can move in our lives and can shape our very souls. Eugene Peterson (and I am paraphrasing here) once remarked that the moment we declare we know it all is the moment that weve told the Holy Spirit to take a hike.
To claim we know it all and then to declare a particular political or social camp captures that viewpoint is to place the wisdom that belongs to God alone into the hands of sinful humanity. We enter dangerous territory when we ask ideological questions before theological questions, especially in the church.
Whether environmentalism, immigration reform or economic recovery, we do the Kingdom of God justice when we venture out bravely and search first for a theological position rather than hunker down smugly behind our ideologies. This can leave us exposed, caught in the cross-fires, but strangely free to live a bit more like Jesus, who came to free us from the very ideologies of his own day, and our days as well.
-- Tracey Bianchi is the Pastor of Women's Ministries at Christ Church of Oak Brook in Illinois and author of Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan). She currently works at home with her three preschool aged children where she writes and speaks nationally for organizations such as MOPS International and locally for womens retreats and events in the Midwest.
Sanctimonious drivel. This woman will be a Marxist within 10 years and her ideology will trump her theology.
Silly woman! God commands us to care for the poor. That is a command of God.
HOW we care for the poor mixes theology with politics. Some say the government should do it, having more resources. I say WE - individuals - are commanded to do it, and the fewer taxes the government takes, the more I have to give. As an Anglican Bishop pointed out, you cannot give to the poor if the government has taken everything you have...
The same holds true of the environment. We are to use the earth wisely - but that has nothing to do with Global Warming, or campaigns against nuclear power. Those are political agendas, and not needed inside the Church.
“To claim we know it all and then to declare a particular political or social camp captures that viewpoint is to place the wisdom that belongs to God alone into the hands of sinful humanity.”
This bears repeating, not so much for the political connection, but for the general observation that so many people claim to have knowledge of things they do not (such as the afterlife and who goes to which part of it!)
Those folks, here on FR and elsewhere, are really really really pompous and annoying.
I re-read the article and don’t see anything about her support of the theory of global warming.
I think this is one area where we definitely agree.
Christ told the young rich man to sell all he had and give the money to the poor.
He did not say sell all he had and give the money to Caesar, so that Caesar could give it to the poor.
The problem with critiquing her reasoning is that she does not define her terms. For instance, what does she mean by "environmentalism"? I consider myself an environmentalist, but I consider the idea that humanity is influencing global climate to be preposterous and the "green" agenda to be downright evil.
In my view, most of the agenda of the environmental movement for the last forty years has been anti-human and, frankly, anti-environment. I believe that wealthy societies are clean societies, and that subsistence societies lack the resources to bother to do much about protecting their environment. Finally, I believe that almost all real environmental issues are local and regional; I don't think there is such a thing as a truly "global" environmental issue.
That said, I think we should care for creation; we are its stewards. I love nature and despise littering, for example, and I think regulating industrial waste is a legitimate function of government.
I guess if I were to critique the reasoning of the column, it would be to say that the author presents a false choice between ideology and theology as drivers of our thinking, and that she presents conservative opposition as a "they're for it, so I'm agin' it" straw man.
There are other options - ideology and theology are not the only sources of truth. What about looking at environmental issues with curious but skeptical eyes and looking for common-sense solutions to the problems that turn out to be real, rather than swallowing the environmental left's propaganda wholesale under the guise of being "Biblical"?
The author needs to understand that treating her opposition as a cartoonish straw man does nothing to convince those of us whose opposition is reasoned and principled. She'll have to do a whole lot better than this fluff.
My point was that environmentalism, in the sense of caring for the earth God has given us, is NOT the same as environmentalism as normally discussed in politics.
A farmer who produces sheep and cattle on a farm is, IMHO, a far better environmentalist that some city-slicker nutjob protesting McDonalds.
So when she takes a political cause ind injects it into the Church, she is mixing politics with religion - and that is bad. While I believe God’s purposes are more closely aligned with the GOP than Democrats, I am called to follow God - NOT Republicans or democrats.
Environmentalism is NOT a religious issue except for the Mother Gaea worshipers.
Theology sets goals. Politics discusses what path we should take to reach those goals. Very few political disputes involve the end state (good health care for as many people as possible), but HOW to do it.
What Jesus was saying there - put God first in your life before your riches. Seek the Kingdom of God first.
It’s the churches place to help the poor and almost all do! It’s not the gov’t place - because the gov’t doesn’t have money - it’s the people money. Nor does the Bible agree to STEALING from the rich and giving to the poor.
2 Thess 3:10
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
Mark 14:7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you WISH you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me”.
Primarily what Christ meant there was specifically targeted to that young man, whose passion lied with his wealth and possessions.
Secondarily and in the more general sense - and the lesson of the passage for the rest of the world - is to put our individual seeking of the Kingdom above our worldly desires, whatever it is that knocks us off the path to the Kingdom.
If we sell all we have and give it to the poor, won't that make us poor too?
I am a Christian and I believe in conservation, but I would never try use one to justify the other.
Why do Christians always try to justify everything through the Bible? There are numerous good ideas (not that I agree with the author) that are not covered in the Bible.
Everything in the Bible is good, but not everything good is in the Bible.
Yep, quite possible - at least in individual cases. Not all of us are preoccupied with our possessions to the point of forsaking our salvation as was that young man in the parable.
That's pretty easy. The whole article is about basing one's assertions on the Bible and she doesn't refer to the Bible to back up a single point she makes in the article.
Exactly. And that includes the poor, also. Look to HIM, HE is their Source, not the government, not man.
That’s the way to His financial provision, not handouts. The poor have climbed out of debt doing it HIS Way.
I think the original intent of the tithes was to set up charity warehouses for the poor, homeless, orphans and travelers. Somewhere along the line I think the monies got mismanaged.
That’s not what Jesus was implying. He was showing him that he put his riches above seeking God.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
That goes for the rich and poor.