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Does what we believe matter? A review of Engaging Theology
A good percentage of the people in all of these groups think they are Christians. They think they know God, but how can they possibly when they are clinging to lies? They are following a different god and a very different Gospel. If they died today, I think most of them would find themselves in a place they were not expecting.
Theology: The Study of God
Theology is the study of God. Sometimes theology can seem intimidating and overwhelming, something that only seminarians should tackle. But theology … knowing God … is for every Christian. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and follow me.” (John 10:27) Not only does Jesus know his own sheep, but they recognize their own shepherd. They recognize, know, and follow.
When you are studying God’s word, when you are seeking him in prayer, when you are submitting yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life … you are not only learning theology, you are doing theology.
However, we can speed our journey on the path to God by learning from the thinkers and theologians of the past. Hundreds of years have been spent and millions of words have been written exploring who God is and what he wants of us. Once, in a discussion with a friend about some borderline heretical beliefs of a local group, he said, “They may not be so far off, they just aren’t explaining it well. The Church Fathers worked through this and did all the heavy lifting. I don’t know why people try to reinvent the wheel.”
Heresy versus Orthodoxy
The problem is, I think, that too many people in the modern U.S. church don’t seem to understand that there is an actual “wheel” when it comes to Christian doctrine; that is, an ordered and systematic set of beliefs that have been worked through, argued, and discussed … that have been tested and proofed. These defined and agreed upon set of beliefs, those things that all Christianity believes regardless of denomination, is known as what is “orthodox.” Beliefs that conflict with those agreed upon set of beliefs are known as “heresies.”
Often heresies arise from an improper or incomplete understanding of a foundational Christian belief. These most frequently have to do with the nature of God and of Jesus Christ. However, sometimes people aren’t interested in right understanding at all and rather than trying to identify that clearly defined “wheel,” they stick together their own set of beliefs, whatever suits them at the moment, like a pincushion. A person can have a heretical belief because they wrongly understand something and not be a heretic. A heretic is a person who doesn’t even seek to understand the truth. It is a heart issue.
Engaging Theology: Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
Engaging Theology by Drs. Ben Blackwell and Randy Hatchett seeks to tackle the first problem that is so prevalent in the church today … that of wrong understanding. Engaging Theology is intended to be an introductory book to theology, one which can be used either in the classroom or for personal use.
Blackwell and Hatchett both teach in the School of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. I had the privilege of taking a class on systematic theology from Dr. Hatchett and he does a very good job of explaining challenging theological concepts. For example, I had read about Apollinarianism prior to taking the class and just could not understand why it was a heresy. And the Filoque Controversy, I didn’t understand what the big to-do was. I thought, “You split the church over this?” Dr. Hatchett was able to explain both in a couple of minutes.
Engaging Theology gives an introduction to what we as Christians believe, why we believe it, and how we got to those beliefs. It also explains why it matters. They write:
[O]rthodoxy is built on a relationship with God in which we rightly approach him in worship. Right beliefs do not merely give us cognitive information, they orient us to God in a manner of worship because worship, like all relationships, is based on a personal encounter . . . For this reason, proper belief about Jesus leads to, even entails, a life of obedience to God through Jesus by the Spirit. In short, orthodoxy cannot be separated from orthopraxy, or right action. If someone struggles with obedience to Christ, this demonstrates not only a weak will but a deficient theology about who God is and how he acts.
What we believe matters. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book to gain a deeper understanding of who God is.
I will be interviewing Drs. Blackwell and Hatchett about their book on Saturday, January 29th, at 11:00 am CST. Come with questions to ask during the livestream. The livestream will be available on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitch, and Amazon Live.
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 Isaiah 53:1-9, John 18:36
 Steven Monacelli, “The Fringe QAnon ‘Cult’ Is Still Waiting for a JFK Jr. Miracle in Dallas,” Rolling Stone, December 1, 2021, accessed January 12, 2022, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/qanon-dallas-conspiracy-theorist-jfk-still-there-1264953/.
 Anders Anglesey, “5 QAnon Predictions in 2021 That Unsurprisingly Didn’t Happen,” Newsweek, last modified January 1, 2022, accessed January 12, 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/qanon-prediction-2021-that-unsurprisingly-didnt-happen-1664031.
 Ben C. Blackwell and R. L. Hatchett, Engaging Theology: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2019) 19.