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Bad Theology Corrupts Good Character

You have probably heard this saying: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character'" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Perhaps you also know the truth taught in Romans 1:18-32, which is basically, “Bad theology corrupts good character.” Even though we know both of these truths, we can still wonder when some Christians end up in immoral situations. The wonder is increased when the Christian involved has emphasized “good company” (nearly to the point of legalism) and “sound doctrine” (to the point of arguing with all who differ).

I spend a good portion of my time with Christians who have fallen into major sin. Some of them turned out not to be Christians; that is a topic for another time. However, some of them were Christians. I have spent many hours listening to them. As they recounted the details of the sins they fell into, I could see that they had not kept bad company and that their theology appeared to be sound. Yet how could I account for their sin? After more questioning, I saw that the basic cause really was bad theology, although not in any area that they might have suspected. What was the explanation?

Most bad theology is the result of false teaching—that is, untrue teaching about God, His being, His character, or His work. We see it in cults, heresies, other world religions, and liberalism. If we know our Bibles, such false teaching is easy to recognize.

But there is another kind of bad theology that is taught by Christians who offer incomplete teaching or overemphasize a particular aspect of theology. Important truth is left out, not because it is not believed, but because it is not part of the current Christian cultural pattern.

Here are a few expressions I hear (and say myself) regularly:

• “Do you know the Savior?”
• “Jesus loves you.”
• “Would you like to come to Jesus?”
• “Would you like to come to Christ?”

These can easily fit into good theology. Here are a few expressions I do not hear:

• “Do you know the Father?”
• “The Father loves you.” “I am not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you…” (John 16:26b-27a).
• “Would you like to come to the Father?” “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

These expressions do not fit with the current Christian culture, so they are not used. Then in the vacuum of teaching about the Father, Christians make up their own theology that often comes straight from the enemy of our souls. It is a caricature of the Father. Thus, bad theology is the first result of failing to teach basic truths about God; bad morality is the second.

Since we do not teach that the Father loves us, the resulting bad theology is that the Father does not love us. This is not a conclusion I reached only from logical deduction. It is borne out by many Christians’ answers to the question, “Would you describe God the Father to me?” In almost every answer, they describe Him as not loving. Those who include love in the answer do so in a way that shows that they do not believe it, e.g. “He is supposed to be loving.” As I listen to this bad theology, I see why the person in front of me also has bad morality.

People generally give two types of answers to this question: 1) confirmation class answers (correct answers), and 2) the answers they really believe. By asking similar questions about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I find that Jesus invariably has a “better” character than the Father. Although I ask these questions of Christians who believe in the Trinity, it is impossible to make their descriptions fit into one Deity. Their answers are polytheistic.

Here are three assignments to help you with your theology of the Father:

1. Read the Gospel of John with a marker in your hand. Highlight every mention of the Father and notice His characteristics and difference from or likeness to Jesus.
2. Go through the New Testament looking for prayers and teaching on prayer. To whom are the prayers addressed?
3. Read the salutations of the letters in the New Testament. What do they say about the Father?

When your theology about the Father becomes truly biblical, it always affects the way you live.

"If God has revealed anything to me that I have not obeyed, I will go down when the crisis comes no matter how I may cry to Him." — Oswald Chambers


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