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  • Don Walker

Theology Has Consequences




All men knowingly or unknowingly are theologians. The basis of a man’s theology may come from subjective experiences, observations of nature, religious training, meditative thought, assumptions based upon his own desires (creating a God in his own image), or from an objective source which is accepted as "truth." This objective source may be the Bible, the Qur’an, The Watchtower magazine, or a host of other so-called "sacred" writings. Regardless of the theology one adopts, we must recognize that it will have consequences, both in the present world and in eternity. It has been said that, "ideas have consequences," this is particularly true when it comes to the ideas one has about God. It is not only true about individuals, but for societies as well. Cultures are inevitably shaped by their view of God. In fact the word "culture" is derived from the word "cultus," which is a Latin term signifying "worship." What a society worships produces it’s culture.

This can readily be seen when one observes the various nations of the earth and the religious system they live under. For instance, humanistic religious systems elevate Man to the place of worship, pantheistic systems, such as Hinduism, worship creation (since God is in everything), and monotheistic systems worship a Supreme Being. This Supreme Being to the Muslim is Allah, to the Christian He is the Triune God of the Bible. He is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is here that we find the distinction between a Muslim culture and a Christian culture. Though both are monotheistic in their theology, it is because of the concept of the Trinity that two distinctly different cultures are produced.

Christianity is by its very nature about the one and the many, monotheism with a trinity. God dwells in community, or as the Puritans understood "God is a sweet society within Himself." Within the Trinity we have an "economic (functional) subordination," at the same time we have an "ontological equality." Because of function there is recognition of the executive (the Father) in the relationship, without the loss of the equality of all members. God, in the Trinity, patterns for Man the structure human community is to take. For example, the Biblical pattern for marriage shows the leadership function of the husband, but at the same time the husband and wife are equal. Submission of the wife does not mean a loss of equality with her husband. In civil governments produced by a Christian culture, the executive office (and its accompanying authority) is acknowledged, but he is not superior in the sense of his "being" to other men. He stands under God and His law as an equal with all men, though his function is different giving him responsibility and authority. The Trinity models this for mankind (economic subordination and ontological equality), whereas a non-trinitarian view of God has no such model.

In an Islamic culture, because of its rejection of the Trinity model, there is submission but no concept of equality as it is played at in societal structures. Exhibit A being the way women are viewed in the Islamic world, particularly within the marriage relationship. A wife is not regarded as equal to her husband, but as a possession. Islamic theology creates a hierarchical view of society based on submission to authority. Why do dictators run most Muslim countries? The answer is quite simply: Theology has consequences.

Western civilization is built upon a trinitarian view of God (in spite of the humanist "smoke screen" to the contrary). There is recognition of hierarchical authority (kings, presidents, prime ministers, etc.) and at the same time a recognition of equality under God. This is demonstrated by our understanding of what Samuel Rutherford called "Lex Rex" (Law is King) as opposed to a totalitarian system of "Rex Lex" (King is Law). You have heard the phrase "No one is above the law," meaning king or peasant, regardless, the law applies. It is the concept that all men stand under the law, which affirms equality. Most people living under the freedom from totalitarian regimes do not realize that the philosophical source of that freedom rests in Christian theology.

Islam sees the tension that exists in embracing monotheism and the Trinity. They see this as a contradiction, while Christianity sees it as a "mystery" revealed by God. Christianity is aware of the tension in which this truth must be held, in fact it is this tension which has pushed Christians to build a society that emphasizes both unity and diversity and in that way reflect the Trinity.

Islam is suspicious of diversity. Having rejected "The One and the Many," they can only see unity as reflected in One and reject the diversity reflected in the Many. It is significant to note for example that Islam looks askance at the story of Christ’s life and death being given in four separate Gospels. Their view is that if there are four separate accounts they must all be wrong. This same perspective prevails as they perceive the Bible to be unreliable record, which came through various authors over a time span of thousands of years. The Qur’an on the other hand, came through one writer (Muhammad) over a period of 23 years. To the Muslim mind this makes the Qur’an more credible.

The emphasis on tawhid--making everything united—has huge cultural implications. Notice how little diversity there is in most Muslim nations regarding dress. This is more than simply a fashion statement, or an act of modesty. Islam seeks to create a "oneness" without diversity of expression. Of much greater importance than clothing is the issue of intellectual liberty, in Muslim states this is often viewed as a violation of tawhid and forbidden. Hisham Kassem of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights stated, "It’s not safe to think in this part of the world." (Ask Salmon Rushdie if this is not true.) In hard-core Islamic countries, any Muslim who converts to Christianity is regarded as having violated tawhid, and may have his property confiscated and possibly lose his life.

Yes, one’s theology is important and it does produce consequences. History and the examination of the development of cultures bear this out. The view one adopts of God shapes all other aspects of his thinking. We, as believers, must be aware of this and not ignore the importance of sound theology.


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