A note on bad theology—hand-washing or germaphobia?

sheldon germsGood theology is important. Saying true and good things—important. Doing things the right way—important. What we say and do should be thought out and thoughtful.

But if our greatest fear is that someone may say or do something theologically incorrect, we’ve gone too far. Such extreme fear creates a spirit of timidity—don’t do anything until you’re sure you’re doing the right thing. It enforces a sort of clericalism—only those with the most theological training should dare speak or act.

Do you think the disciples were fully equipped when Jesus sent them out in Matthew 10?

Now we should be prudent, not careless. This isn’t license to say and do whatever we please.

How do we know what’s prudent and what’s too much? Let’s compare avoiding bad theology to avoiding illness. Are we like the wise person who washes her hands at appropriate times, or like the germaphobe who won’t leave her home for fear of germs?

Some signs you may be a theology germaphobe:

  • You’re so concerned to speak with precision that non-scholars have a hard time understanding you.
  • You get anxiety about breaking free from a manuscript for fear of misspeaking. (Don’t confuse this with a general statement against manuscripts.)
  • You’re scared to let others lead unless you’re absolutely certain you can trust them.

Germaphobia seeks to avoid something bad, but in its hyper-vigilance, it does more harm than good.

So a word to any pastors or churches on the edge of germaphobia: loosen up. Things will be okay! Be prudent about what you say and do, but not paralyzed. And trust that God can (and has) overcome many errors.

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