Who is at the Center of our Theology?

As I reflect on Christian teaching and theology today I find that most often the center of that theology is not God but self. Evangelical theology is about me going to heaven. Pentecostal theology often is about what I can get from God today. Faith is to get things, even worship becomes about me experiencing the presence of God. But I believe it is time to move God back into the center of Christian theology. How can this be done?

First we must approach the scripture asking what is the revelation God is giving us and for what purpose? For the most part we approach scripture from the starting point of our own questions. How can I go to heaven? Can I be healed? Can I solve my marital problem? Can I be delivered from some bondage? How can I be successful in life and make more money? What can I know about God? Such questions guide both my searching of the scripture and shape of the answers I find there. The answers I find in scripture and in my relationship to Christ are determined by the questions I ask. If I ask the wrong questions I get the wrong answers. In the movie, “I Robot,” Will Smith’s character interacts with a hologram of the dead doctor. When the wrong question is asked the hologram says something like, “That is the wrong question, my responses are limited, you must ask the right question.” We also must ask the right questions if we are to find the answers we need.

The right question is: What is God’s plan and purpose for creation and for my life? Once I search the scripture with this question in mind, scripture changes for me? If I read the New Testament with the question in my mind, “How can I go to heaven?” Then everywhere I find salvation by faith as the only teaching of scripture. All of Romans is about justification by faith. Not because that is in fact the only topic or even the main topic of Romans but because that is the question I am asking and so it is the answer I find.  On the other hand if I ask the question, “What is God’s plan and purpose?” I put God’s interest at the center and begin to build a theology based upon His purpose and not mine.

If my focus is on what God has done for me I may never honestly ask the question, “What does God ask of me?” Is the only expectation of God that I come to Him in faith? Or does He expect me to embrace the process and possibility of transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit? Is faith only to receive what I want or is it to receive God’s plan and to release His purpose into the Earth? Do we see ourselves as receivers only or as partners in the outworking of God’s purpose? As a Christian, am I passive or active? Is faith a noun or a verb? Is Christ’s command to have the correct beliefs or to believe.

I may ask the question, “Why should I believe?” The answer from the human point of view could be: So I will go to heaven; or, So I can be blessed; or So I can be healed. Or I might look for the answer from God’s point of view. In which case I may come to an answer like: So we may come into intimate relationship with the living God; or, So we may be points of contact for the extension of God’s kingdom into our sphere of influence. What is the center point of your theology?

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