And You Say Theology Doesn’t Matter? How Silly!

Here are three stories that clearly demonstrate that what you believe about the end of your life and the end of the world will profoundly affect how you live.

Story #1
One of the podcasts that I subscribe to and regularly listen to is C-Span’s Q & A with Brian Lamb. A recent show featured journalist Richard Miniter who has traveled extensively in what is commonly referred to as the third world and authored many books including Losing Bin Laden.

In the context of the interview, Miniter shared a discussion “that he had with a guy he met in Khartoum (Sudan) that had lived with Osama bin Laden for years. It was interesting to get his perspective. This guy’s a radical terrorist who thinks that it’s okay to kill civilians. When I asked him why, he said, ‘Well the Koran says that at the end of time, everyone will be judged by Allah and be given one last chance to convert to Islam so all we are doing is speeding up the timetable. If they die and they blink for one second and they are at the end of time, they have that same choice they would have had if we didn’t kill them. So we are doing them no harm.’ Now of course that’s nonsense. It’s evil nonsense that justifies the killing of people. But it was interesting to hear the justification. It was said in a calm, matter of fact tone of voice. This man had earlier poured me a cup of tea. He didn’t mean it in an unfriendly way.”

If you believe that at the end of life everyone gets a chance to convert to Islam, then there is no harm in murdering them.

Story #2
According to news reports, Brian McLaren gave a talk at a Willow Creek sponsored youth conference in which he unpacked some of his perspectives in his most recent book Everything Must Change.

“Many of us have been increasingly critical in recent years of popular American eschatology in general, and conventional views of hell in particular,” he writes. “Simply put, if we believe that God will ultimately enforce his will by forceful domination, and will eternally torture all who resist that domination, then torture and domination become not only permissible but in some way godly.”

McLaren also argues the orthodox understanding that Jesus will return at a future date and forcefully conquer all His enemies needs rethinking.

“This eschatological understanding of a violent second coming leads us to believe (as we’ve said before) that in the end, even God finds it impossible to fix the world apart from violence and coercion; no one should be surprised when those shaped by this theology behave accordingly,” McLaren writes.

Brian McLaren believes that the orthodox Christian view of Christ’s Second Coming and God’s future judgment leads to violent behavior.

Story #3
Russell Moore, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has found much to criticize in McLaren’s views. My point here is not to draw attention to their disagreements although I do find Moore’s views far more biblical. My point in this post is to show how much a person’s theology of “the end” affects how they live. Here is Moore challenging McLaren and at the same time expressing how his views of the Bible’s teaching should shape our lives.

It is these doctrines [of the Second Coming and God’s future judgment], in fact, that actually keep Christians away from such violence and domination.

When the apostle Peter takes up the sword to defend Jesus, he is rebuked precisely because Jesus says he can call “more than twelve legions of angels” to defend him (Matt 26:53), but his time is not yet. The apostle Paul tells us not to avenge ourselves. Why? Because, he writes, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom 12:18-20).

As for domination, the Bible tells us not to dominate one another, precisely because “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Rom 12:10).

When a Christian understands that he does not fight for his own honor, but that justice will be done by God, either through union with Christ and his cross or at the judgment itself, the Christian is freed then to trust God, not his sword or his gun or his fists or his tongue. It is McLaren’s vision of a life that consists only of the justice achieved in this era that leads to violence and Darwinian struggle to see that a pound of flesh is exacted.

It is the kind of world that McLaren envisions, without a messianic hope of a second coming, that leads to the bloody utopian experiments we have seen throughout the twentieth-century. If human beings do not expect a Messiah in the skies, they will expect to elect one, or anoint one, or biochemically engineer one. And, do not be deceived, such pseudo-Messiahs always eventually have a sword.

Russell Moore believes that the orthodox Christian position serves as the impetus to live in humility, patience, peace and forgiveness.

Three men with three different perspectives on “the end” which lead to three radically different ways to live. The inescapable conclusion is that theology matters tremendously in how you live your life. So pay attention and make sure that your theology is thoroughly biblical.

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