unhealthy theology – the need to ignore reality

May 30, 2009

So it’s been years now that I’ve been working with the categories or healthy and unhealthy theology in order to decide how to take part in certain theological questions in church. Obviously there is still borders, since at some point I consider certain theological ideas to be unhealthy, to be dangerous to the health or the invididual and/or society.

More and more, an important factor in forming my mind on what is unhealthy theology, is seeing if these theological ideas require those who adhere to it to chuck reality out the door. Obviously I now need to recognize that there are many realities, many opinions etc, but let me point to some of what I consider unhealthy theology, because it chucks reality:

  • Obviously creationism. The idea that all scientific research is false and dishonest. That observations must be changed to fit my theological system. This theological position chucks the reality of the scientific world out the door in order to get a theological system that fit. Now, I know that there isn’t concensus on everything in science, but this approach creates caricatures of certain scientific approaches in order to chuck them out the door, so that the theological system can continue to exist.
  • Prosperity gospel. Working with the idea that God will bless you financially if you adhere to certain ideas, it ignores a great deal of it’s own theological tradition (everything on the suffering of the faithful in the Psalms for example), as well as the reality that this simply doesn’t happen. Many are people of faith, but doesn’t experience financial blessings. Others get rich from doing the exact opposite than what the Christian tradition stood for (for example dishonesty in business).
  • I haven’t had much to do with the New Atheist movement. But the little I’ve noticed from them (see for example Bill Maher’s documentary) is that alsi they need to ignore reality to make their theological ideas fit. They need to ignore the reality that not all Christians, Muslims and Jews are fundamentalists, they need to ignore the exceedingly complex approaches that take the sciences seriously, and yet consider language of faith to be a nessecary component of talking about reality.

Don’t try and take this into specifics, because you’ll soon find yourself calling everything that doesn’t conform to your reality to be unhealthy. I’m still working this out, so help me here, but I guess it’s those kinds of theologies that make absolutely no sense to anyone that’s on the outside or downside of it, because it doesn’t seem to come close to reality, that I’m seeing more and more as unhealthy.


8 Responses to “unhealthy theology – the need to ignore reality”

  1. Tom Smith Says:

    Good post … I would add as a sub-point under prosperity the whole healing conundrum.

  2. Vince Aslett Says:

    The problem arises when we want to make the Word suit our needs and desires- It is not for us to decide whether the Word is correct or not, or how it should be read – AW Tozer said:”We are not to edit the Word”

    Unhealthy theology??? Perhaps when we think we are greater theologians than God, and we want to prescribe to the world what His Word is supposed to say and mean, hence the origin of most cults.

    Should we not rather teach the world all about applying sola Scriptura?

  3. Vince Aslett Says:

    Just to add…

    John Newton said “I will put down all apparent inconsistencies in the Bible to my own ignorance”

    Good blog though, keep it up Cobus

  4. michaelrowancurle Says:

    Great entry. I think you blundered a bit when you said “don’t try to take this into specifics” – aren’t creationism, prosperity gospel, and fundamental atheism specifics? 🙂 Although I agree with you about these things, that they are unhealthy is an opinion – like almost all theology! HAHAHA! Ultimately God is a Mystery. Maybe we should define “Unhealthy Theology” as arrogant theology / theologies that leaves no room for questions / theologies that ultimately drive people away from God’s embrace… or some other equally unhelpful, vague definition. “God will not be domesticated” (John Piper) I have a feeling that this means that maybe God resists definitions… maybe that means theology should resist definitions… maybe that means we’ll all have to leave our books and our blogs and go out and actually love people… AAAAGH! Remember the New Covenant promise in Jeremiah 31:34, “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘know the Lord’, for they will all know me, from the least of them [possibly creationists… or you and me!] to the greatest.”

  5. cobus Says:

    the specifics I was talking about was on what you consider reality to be. Look at reality in broad strokes, and if you’re theology forces you to ignore these broad strokes, then check your theology. The specifics doesn’t refer to theological streams, since the idea was to point to some specific examples that I think won’t pass the test…

  6. Vince Aslett Says:

    I do not see how one can make statements and not discuss the detail, Cobus please define why you see creationism as unhealthy – are we not suppose to believe that God created the world and all on it?

  7. Michael Says:

    oh! ok. Yes, young earth creationism, prosperity gospel etc. ignore reality as we know it and therefore are unhealthy theology – got it now! Again though, I feel we should resist the urge to call theology that ignores reality unhealthy… this is the sort of uncharitable approach that could lead to a complete rejection of the supernatural! Reality is an opinion (as you say). So I prefer the more pragmatic approach you alluded to shortly in your “healthy theology” entry that frames healthy theology in terms of its fruit rather than its logic… although I suppose that approach is just as easily criticised.

  8. cobus Says:

    Vince, I’ll gladly try and explain:
    I’ve mentioned Creationism a few time on this blog, not that much, but I’ve mentioned some theological critique of the movement before.
    But let me clarify: Creationism is not the belief that God created the earth. Creationism includes a specific view on when God created and on how the Bible should relate to the natural sciences. These two factors mean that most of mainline scientific research need to be rejected for the theology to hold, this I consider unhealthy. Hope this helps?

    Micheal: This is one approach of getting some way to critique theological approaches without going onto a simple dogmatism or foundationalism, and without ending up in relativism. At some point we are drawing our borders, question is just why and how.

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