We are to be discerning of people’s theological compass.
“Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them.”
In an age of pluralism, we are told to affirm each person’s beliefs and not judge them by our personal understanding of God. We are to accept without question what other people believe about God, for all paths lead to God. It does not matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something. Tragically today, many churches celebrate theological ambiguity and confusion rather than point people to theological clarity and certainty. To question someone’s belief is to be “judgmental” and arrogant. Yet this what Paul calls upon us to do. Throughout the New Testament, we repeatedly find that we are to be discerning regarding theological error. We are to pursue theological clarity governed by Scripture. Contrary to popular culture, what we believe in is far more critical than belief itself, for the object of our faith is what determines our eternal destiny. Christ points this out in John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” To reject Christ and put one’s faith in any other religion or belief system results in eternal consequences. There is too much at stake to be ambiguous about what we place our faith in.
In light of the importance, centrality, and necessity of the gospel, we are to be discerning of any who distort its message and point people in a different direction. The people to whom Paul is writing are living in Rome, the hotbed of religious polytheism and pluralism. Rather than encourage them to embrace and recognize different religions, Paul strongly warns the readers of those who undermine the gospel by incorporating a false gospel. Instead of bringing the truth, they are further enslaving them to their sinful lusts. Their arguments seem impressive with their eloquence and convincing flattery. One of the characteristics of a false teacher is that they say what we want to hear. They promise freedom from the consequences of sin without the necessity of repentance and change from the sin. They preach a message of liberality and license rather than obedience and transformation. They promote sexual freedom and deny the redemptive work of Christ (2 Peter 2:1-3).
How then do we avoid being deceived? The answer lies at the heart of the gospel and message of Scripture as the cornerstone of our faith. To be discerning, we need to be grounded in Scripture so that we evaluate all things by the pages of the Bible. Theology is not governed by personal opinion but by the Scripture's teachings that give theological clarity and moral direction.
This brings us to the heart of theology. Theology is the reflection upon the character of God, how He acts in the universe, and how we are to respond to Him. Theology is not intellectual speculation about God; it is discovering and understanding God through His self-revelation in His Word and His Son. To live Christianly is to evaluate all things based upon this understanding. This is why the study of Scripture is the basis for discernment, for Scripture is where God has revealed himself to us. Any other basis for truth is merely man’s speculation about God which ultimately leads us astray. This brings us back to the vital truth that we need to reflect upon: What we believe in is more important than belief itself. Is God, and his truth revealed in Scripture, the foundation of your faith? Instead of embracing and celebrating theological doubt we need to tenaciously pursue the clarity of truth found in Scripture.