Costly Denominational Theology

Thanks to Cartoon Church for the imageI’ve been thinking a lot recently about theology and Christian denominations. Because I’m a theology student, and because I work for a church, and because I’m going to be a vicar one day, theology and denominations crops up a lot in conversation. Almost to the point that I’m sick of it and want to jack it all in. Yet at the same time, I just love talking about and debating over theology. And I’m not the only one. If we’re honest, most Christians love to talk about denominations and theology. But talking about theology and denominations (which is what I’m going to talk about in this post) can come at a very costly price. Hence the title of the post.

I want to highlight two positive things to start with (before I deal with the main point of my post) that I have had to realise as I journey towards increased Christian maturity.

  1. To talk about theology is good (and, I have to say, important)- It’s important that we as Christians discuss theology and Christian faith together. It matures us, keeps us on our toes, and helps us practice discernment. It’s stimulating for the brain and enthuses us to read our Bibles more. It draws us closer to Jesus. It drives us to prayer when we don’t understand certain Biblical theologies.
  2. Denominations are good – One denomination will never be right for all people. This is why we have countless denominations. We’re not called to to uniformity in style of worship, but we are to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, both of which can be expressed in the varied denominations that we see today.

Having said all this, theology does throw people into disunity And denominations do divide. C.S Lewis once said,

Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.

He also said that,

Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbours was to explain and defend the belief that has been common o nearly all Christians at all times.

These two quotes particularly struck me today as I was pondering over them. You may know that these quotes are taken out of the Preface of Mere Christianity, a book written by Lewis explaining the Christian faith. The preface tells the reader of why the book is here, and what the book aims to do.  I think these two quotes summarise the book perfectly. And, I think to a great extent that these two quotes should summarise our mission as Christians to obey Christ and tell the world about his saving love.

We’re not called to discuss denominational divides and minor theologies that aren’t critical to salvation. Lewis got it smack on when he practically said that all he was concerned about was keeping the main thing the main thing. And that thing is a person. And that person is Christ.

In the same way, Lewis is completely right when he says that the best service we could give our unbelieving friends is explaining and defending the Gospel.

As Christians, we are to be very careful not to hinder, obstruct or jeapordise someone from being bathed in Gospel truth. Unfortunately those of us who tend to be theologically and denominationally minded tend to have meat-head syndrome at times when it comes to choosing appropriate moments to talk about such issues and when it comes to evangelising and defending the Truth to our friends who are not yet Christians.

Like I said, theology is good, and so are denominations. But whilst theology is good, theology doesn’t save. That is reserved to Christ. And whilst denominations are good, it isn’t the church. There is only one Church. And again, Christ is the head of that one Church.

So I guess my thought for the end of this post is this: Do we think about/prioritise/ talk about theology and denominations too much? Is it affecting our evangelism? Is it affecting our relationships with other Christians? Is it taking us away from our closeness to Christ rather than drawing us to him?

If it is, then I think we need to, as Lewis so pointedly set out to do in his book, realise that we must keep Jesus as the main thing in our lives, focusing on him for our unity, and to also make sure that our priority is defending Him and His truth rather than our denomination or secondary theology. Neglect of the priorities only hinders spiritual growth, causes disunity, and breeds unhelpful conversations and explanations to unbelievers who don’t need to be burdened with whether they should go to an Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist or other sort of church/chapel.

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • AJ

    nice, got a lot of time for Lewis, genius writer