Alex Duke lives in Louisville, Ky., with his wife Melanie. He is a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @evanalexduke.

 

Because I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll get straight to the point: I think you should make up your mind. I think you should decide what stuff you think the Bible teaches and what stuff you think it doesn’t teach.

In other words, I think you should stop being a “theological agnostic.”

A theological agnostic says that because certain theological viewpoints can’t be “proven” and because Christians waste time arguing about them, bringing only division, a strong commitment to these view points is at best unnecessary and at worst a short-sighted distraction in opposition to the Christian’s main goal: sharing the gospel with unbelievers.

A BETTER ALTERNATIVE

Those who reason this way acknowledge an understandable apprehension, one that I share. But ultimately I’m persuaded their conclusion is incorrect.

Allow me to offer an alternative: Christians should be convinced—like sell-the-farm, over-the-moon—of as many theological views as their conscience will allow.

THREE REASONS WHY

1) It’s personally consistent.

Do you believe the God of the Bible exists? Do you believe He sent his son Jesus into the world to die on a cross, to be resurrected on the third day? Do you believe Jesus’ death and resurrection provides the only bridge from sinful men to a righteous God? Do you believe these things—are you convinced of these things—because you also believe the Bible is trustworthy, reliable, authoritative?

Yeses to these questions identify you with evangelical Christianity. Somewhere along the way, you believed that the Christian versions of x, y, and z were both true and satisfying, making the best sense of the data at hand. In so doing, you also decided, whether you realized it or not, against propositions a, b, and c; you considered them—whatever they were for you—unsatisfying, unfit for the data at hand, and therefore untrue.

This distinction is more obvious when talking about Christianity and something else. But the principle holds even as it extends more deeply. For example, joining a church entails massive theological commitment. Does Scripture teach that baptism is for believers and their children, or only professing believers? What about the pastorate? Are men and women qualified—or only men? Who’s responsible for the church’s decision-making—a plurality of elders? A single pastor? an entire congregation? A board of elders outside the local body? A white-hatted man in Rome?

Again, assuming you’re a member of a church, you’ve reached a conviction regarding these questions. I’m simply encouraging a deeper investigation into Scripture in order to become equally convinced on issues that aren’t directly tied to church membership—issues of salvation, Jesus’ work on the cross, spiritual gifts, and the list goes on.

2) It’s biblically encouraged.

In Romans 14:5, Paul writes, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Here, Paul rebukes certain members of the church at Rome for being quarrelsome and ungracious because others don’t share their theological beliefs. He doesn’t, however, rebuke anyone for reaching a conclusion not in accordance with the rest of the church. This whole theological difference thing, it seems, is a natural part of church life. Interestingly, the remedy Paul supplies is not agnosticism or apathy, but faith, service, and forbearance. Further, the result of this kind of love amidst disagreement is not a disunity or infighting that makes the gospel unattractive, but rather, a Christ-honoring unity that highlights the character of Christ in his service to us.

3) It's evangelistically effective.

We’ve all been there, sharing the gospel with someone who seems riveted on secondary issues: archaeological questions, a so-called Christian neighbor who sleeps around and sings in the choir, their grandfather’s “fundamentalist” church who hates homosexuals, an aunt who died far too young and left behind three kids and a husband far too alone.

We must understand these responses are theological before they are intellectual or even emotional. “How can God be who you say He is—good, all-powerful, self-sacrificial, merciful—when all the stuff around me screams otherwise?”

Here, we all acknowledge a shrugged shoulder and a saddled fence as woefully inadequate. So we humbly, yet confidently appeal to Scripture as our source of truth and authority. But to do this effectively, we must already have a notion of where to go and what to say, something that remains impossible from a place of theological agnosticism, no matter how well-intentioned we feel for being there.

WHAT’S NEXT

Here are a few practical first steps on the way toward abandoning theological agnosticism.

1) Read your Bible.

Read it cover-to-cover; read it as one story from one God; remember that every word exists to reveal truths about God, truths we would not intuit on our own apart from His gracious revelation.

2) Pray.

Reading is bolstered by prayer. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s illumination as you read, that He would help truths and ideas and realities coalesce before your very eyes. He was given to us for this exact purpose (John 16:12-15).

3) Join a church that preaches the Bible.

If you’re like me, the first few months of sitting under what’s called expositional preaching will seem somewhat strange and repetitive. But eventually, if your pastor is doing his job faithfully, you’ll start to see how to put the Bible together, how to think and reason biblically, and ultimately how to reach theological conclusions.

4) Read good books.

Read widely; read outside of your denominational circle; read old stuff and new stuff. Find a friend and ask them what helpful books they’ve read along the way. The goal isn’t to be a theological mirror of your best friend or favorite pastor, but to reflect your own Spirit-led conscience as you compare your reading to Scripture.

 

[1] Read Romans 14:1-15:7 in its entirety to see what I mean.

[2]An expositional sermon is a sermon that takes the main point of a passage of Scripture, makes it the main point of the sermon, and applies it to life today.” In other words, the theme of the text controls the theme of the sermon. For a more complete answer, click here.