Today it is almost universal (at least it seems so among those who use social media) for everyone to have the right to their own point of view about everything. Moreover, they have the right to call it whatever they want. Metaphysics and theology are particularly cited. But, actually, there are limits. One’s theology must have resilience and consistency.
I have been ruminating for several weeks on five examples of theological assertions that are wrong because they cannot be justified due to internal logical impossibilities.
Theology is wrong that sets apart a population for special entitlements while setting up barriers for OTHERS.
“Anyone born into this community is welcome. Outsiders have to prove their loyalty.”
In churches in Thailand and most other countries children are automatically welcome either by being baptized shortly after birth or by being included as insiders, while newcomers have special classes and expectations to meet. Thai Buddhism lacks these requirements.
But these are organizational rules. When the rules are justified by theological rationale the result is wrong theology. Theology cannot be potentially universal while still attributing to supreme authority the demand that various groups be treated differently.
Theology is wrong that relegates a population to oblivion as the conclusion of any configuration of natural conditions.
“That earthquake proves those people are sinners.”
As recently as last week prominent commentators again made the unfounded connection between California wild fires and the law in California to employ LGBT persons in official positions. Old women with black cats were killed as witches because their worship of the Devil was rumored to have caused the Black Plague.
The Supreme Being cannot be supremely just and rational if people are destroyed due to circumstances totally external to them and with no logical connection to them. This often is the result of confusion over realms of discourse, as, for example, when events of nature are conflated with moral principles that are social.
Theology is wrong that legitimizes a system whereby the particular gifts of any category of persons are prevented from being contributed to the common welfare.
“We could never have a woman in leadership.”
A religious foundation has refused an unconditional contribution of funds on the basis that the contributors included people unopposed to abortion. Thai Buddhist hierarchy still opposes the ordination of women monks. The mandate in some Muslim regimes is to capture and execute people suspected of being gay.
At the base, the reasons for making these exclusionary distinctions are always warped theology. It must be a principle of any theology that presumes to represent universal truth that the goal is inclusive of all people, in which case diversity is to be embraced and celebrated.
Theology is wrong that delays fulfillment by postponing eternity into the future.
When that which is ultimately important is entirely in the future, that which is in the present is not important except as a means. This reasoning is used to lower the priority for taking action now on social and political issues. In opposition to this distorted perspective is Jesus’ insistence that the Kingdom of God is already operational, angels are among us now, and the journey has begun. A theology is faulty which cannot incorporate factors because they are unexplainable in a certain time-frame.
Theology is wrong that objectifies those who are subjects.
“Leave everything up to God.” “God rewards your faith.”
Theology must be about the human relationship to the holy in a specified context. It is a distortion of theology to treat either subject (the Divine or the Human) as an object to be acted upon. A Supreme Being would not be very supreme if the being were easily persuaded by supplications to alter the supreme plan, as would be the case when people say “God stopped the storm because of our prayers.”
[Thanks to my friend the Rev. Paul Frazier from whose extensive files I have filched the cartoons to illustrate this essay. A subsequent essay may follow on Heretical Theology. That might lead to others.]
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.