Watch Your Anthropology: Part Two

Continued from Part One.

Because of this tendency to sympathize with humanity’s sin, we must be careful to evaluate the doctrine of any Christian teacher or organization or church or movement. It doesn’t matter if we are reading a book on systematic theology or just listening to a Praise and Worship album, look very closely at the theology of mankind presented in it. It may be stated explicitly in a doctrinal statement or it may be implicit in the way humans are depicted. Whether explicit or implicit, a theology of mankind will be present. It is impossible to write (as a human) with a neutral position about the state of humanity. If you’re Martian it might be a different story. . .

Someone might ask me, “Why not just look at the theology about God? Isn’t that the most important?” Yes, it is the most important. When I advise looking at the theology of mankind, I am hoping that I am addressing people who at least attempt to be orthodox Christians, not cults or truly fringe movements in Christendom. One should certainly look at the theology of God, but if a Christian group has already degenerated so far that they are perhaps denying the Trinitarian nature of God, or denying the deity or Christ, or asserting that God cannot know or influence the future, they have gone far out of orthodoxy. I would hope most Christians would spot their error quickly.

Erroneous views of man are not so easy to spot . Often a faulty theology of man is taught alongside a correct theology of God. Don’t miss that. People may teach a basically orthodox view of God’s nature and attributes while simultaneously teaching a deficient view of man’s nature and situation. In this case, while the statements made about God seem correct, in the actual application of theology to life, the faulty theology of man usually carries the day. Unless one is sensitive to the view of man, it may be hard to discern why a teacher/book/church sounds right but seems “off.”

On the one end of the scale are teachers who just have not thought through their theology well-enough to recognize the inherent contradictions in their thoughts. I believe the second category includes a sizeable number of sincere people within Evangelicalism. I include myself here. Some of the people, particularly youth leaders, who had a profound influence in my spiritual life and were used by God to help me grow also taught a form of graceless sanctification which harmed me. I heard things like, “If you do X or Y, you’ll be ruined for ministry forever.” Or, “If you marry interracially, you’ll limit your influence in ministry.” Or, “If you don’t read your Bible and pray everyday, you’re not really following God.” While I am grateful for the sacrifice of many who ministered to me, I must admit that they accidentally harmed me by their underlying assumption that what I do through my own effort determines my usefulness to God. Rubbish.

Some of the praise and worship music that helped me through a hard time in my life also negatively affected my idea of human nature. Human ability was so emphasized in many songs that I neglected to consider how unable I am to change myself. “I love you, Lord. Oh, how I LOVE you. I really, really love you!” Yeah right. My love for God was and is pathetic. I found some of the secular but dark music I loved (and still like) had a more realistic depiction of human struggles. Horrified Christian parents ask why their teens listen to dark music instead of bopping with Sandi Patti or Wayne Watson. Well, teens struggle and most Christian music presents such a sanitized picture of life, that it is virtually propaganda. God knows we really are as bad or even worse than the “bad” music depicts us.

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