Does Our Theology Edify?
I was initially hesitant to start this blog. It's not as though anyone was asking me to start one and I was rejecting the idea. It was my own idea... but I was hesitant. As I've said to many people, there was a distinct point in my life where I loved theology more than I loved God and his church. I would have loved to debate Calvinism with you before I considered praying with and for you. Thankfully, the Lord has done a great work in my heart and I've been softened a great deal. It's only because of that work that the Lord did in my heart that I decided blogging would be a healthy thing for me to do (it wouldn't have been five years ago).
This brings me to the topic to discuss. I want to ask you (us) a question, does our theology edify? I've been reflecting on that quite a bit after seeing an Instagram post from Preston Perry on quarrelsome Christian leaders (I've linked it at the bottom of this post, give him a follow!). He says, "If you follow some ministers who always seem to be calling people out on their sin, calling people unbiblical and not solid, but you never see them build people up, you never see them walk in love or hope the best in people, you might be following some pharisees or you might be one yourself." Oh boy is that something I needed to hear five years ago. It cuts right to the heart of what our intentions are in theology and theological discourse. Is the edification of the church one of our chief goals?
This topic was on the heart of Paul as he wrote the pastoral epistles. He charges Timothy in 2 Tim 2:14, "Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.". The fascinating piece of this is that Paul was actually telling Timothy to guard the doctrine of the church. One might think that heavy disputes over particular words would do well to guard the doctrine. Paul disagrees. This charge that he delivers to Timothy in his second letter is reminiscent of 1 Tim 6:3-5 which reads,
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
For Paul, maintaining a good doctrine in the church necessarily involves promoting a healthy culture. The two are deeply intertwined.
This concept has deep roots in the reformed tradition as well. Calvin once wrote, "I have held nothing to be of more importance than the edification of the church". He intentionally abstained from being a polemical writer for this reason. Now, there is a time and a place for polemical theology but, as Calvin did, we should stray far from being known for our polemical heart towards believers.
Now hear me well, rich theological discourse is essential. We sharpen one another by engaging in thought provoking theological conversation. However, if our aim in doing so is to tear others down instead of build them up, we look more like the foolish Corinthians than loving brothers and sisters (1 Cor 3:3-9).