Over the past week I have had several theological discussions with folks from AUMC and people from other places. In those conversations it was very easy to find reasons to pigeonhole people, preachers and even music into our categories of good, bad and indifferent. I have a tendency to do this very thing. It sometimes helps me to sort out theology that is not in keeping with the life, word and work of Jesus. But sometimes I can "throw the baby out with the bathwater," so to speak. All of this is treacherous ground. On one hand, I want to make sure that we are within Christian orthodoxy. On the other hand, I love lyrics and music that honestly examine our relationship with God and praise all of His works ... not just those I like.
In Galatians 1 Paul gives a good guide of how to sort out the good from the bad. He sums it up in 2 statements. The first is from Chapter 1, verse 12. Paul reminds the Galatians that his preaching and authority to preach do not come from a human source ... "I received it from direct revelation from Jesus Christ!" While Paul is reminding the Galatians of his apostolic authority and source, it is a reminder to me that my preaching and teaching must come from the Scriptures given to me (and us) by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Be very concerned if you hear of preachers, teachers and denominations that say they have special revelation beyond God's Holy Word. Likewise, be careful that your beliefs accept all of the Scriptures ... not just the ones you particularly like. Our belief structure comes from God. It is one reason we say the creed. The creed reminds us that there is an umbrella of Holy Spirit revelation under which our theology must fall.
The second statement is from Chapter 1, verse 24. Paul reminds the Galatians that because of his preaching, teaching and witness, people praised God. This is vital to our belief structure! We have a very human habit of loving things like charisma, flashiness, sword rattling (a guy thing), brashness, prosperity-promises and me-focused theology. Paul exhorts the Galatians and us in his final statement of the chapter ... "they praised God because of me!" Paul is not placing himself on a pedestal. Paul is reminding them (and us) of the point of teaching, preaching, theology and even my daily grind. It is to praise God and to point to God.
This thought process came about because of several discussions (and some internal pondering of my own) about denominational and musical theology. It IS truly important. But Paul's 2 points cause me to ask 2 questions about what I teach, what we sing and what we can all say we believe. Does it (the teaching, preaching, singing) flow from Christ? Does it also point to God? Great questions to ponder. And before you "throw out the baby with the bathwater" this question happened very early in the Church when priests were found to be sinful. Some wanted to say that the sacraments administered by those priests (baptism, communion, etc.) were not valid. The early Church decided that the sacrament was sacred, not because of the priest, but because of the presence of God. Good call, early Church! Maybe what we should do is ask, about theology, music and preaching ... is it from Scripture? Does it point to God? That's what Paul told the Galatians. Randy