The dark temptation
“Perhaps, though, underneath it all, there is a more sinister reason for our dislike of theology. Quite simply, we do not like to admit to ourselves that God has spoken to us, and spoken clearly. For then we would have to confess that we have not obeyed him. And so we fear and loathe gospel-theology, with its blunt talk of God and his ways. Instead we naturally prefer theological vagueness. There in the shadows, undisturbed by the harsh light of divine revelation, we are free to fashion our gods to our hearts’ content; we can make a religion that is no more than comforting experience, moralism, or whatever we choose.
And, we go on, doesn’t such doctrine-free Christianity give less for people to fight over? Doesn’t it help unite the church? This was exactly the argument used by Erasmus, the prince of the humanists. ‘The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity,’ he once said, ‘but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible’. But what, then, would people be uniting around?
As Erasmus showed, the temptation to sideline theology is subtle and strong. But the story of the humanists makes it quite clear: without theology, without the doctrines of the gospel, there can be no true unity, and no substantial reformation.
What Luther saw was that Christianity is a matter of theology first and foremost. God reveals his truth; we believe, confess and press in to know it. Only with that dynamic could reformation sweep through the church. May God make us all such theologians!”