Friday, October 19, 2007

Are you a Tabloid Theologian?

By C Michael Patton @

One person has rightly said that all people are theologians, you just have to decide what type of theologian you are going to be. Are you going to be a good theologian or a sloppy theologian?

Tabloid journalism. You know what this is. It is sensationalistic journalism. It is a billion dollar business. It preys on our naivety to believe something unbelievable. It exists because we like to let down our critical guard and indulge our minds by believing that which naturally would be rejected. From alien abductions to pregnant men, the tabloids have it all.

Tabloid theology is the same. It is sensationalistic theology. More than this, it describes the attitude of much of our religious culture today. It is the result of a culture that dichotomizes between the intellect and faith. It is fueled by peoples uncritical methodology. A tabloid theologian is one who constructs his or her theology based upon naivety. In the Bible, this is called a “simpleton.” In Christianity, as long as something tags their message with the name “Jesus,” with a prayer, or a Bible verse, tabloid theologians will believe it.

Some examples of tabloid theology:

1. The pancake with Jesus’ image proves that Jesus is real.

2. Stories of miraculous healings need to be believed without question.

3. “If you receive this email, pass it on to five people and you will receive a blessing. If you don’t there will be a cure.” (Don’t say you have not done this!)

4. ”If you send a financial gift to this ministry, you will receive a cloth from brother ________ that will heal you.” (Please say you have not done this!)

5. “I sense that there is someone in the audience who has a back pain. God has healed you pain.” (Good guess)

6. The story of the microphone which picked up the screams of hell during an oil drilling.

7. The hitchhiking angle who mysteriously disappears after saying ”Gabriel’s mouth is on the trumpet.” (I got chills when I heard this when I was 12-years-old)

I don’t know how many times I have received the email that encourages me to pass it on for a blessing. It usually comes from those who, if asked, would say they are religious. Most would even say that they are Christian. But in the end, the passing of the email was their only Christian service and act of faith for the day.

Many television preaching personalities rely upon the existence of tabloid theologians so that their message will be received without question. Criticism will kill tabloid theology—instantly. Therefore, criticism is seen to be sinful and dishonoring among tabloid theologians. “Doubter! Skeptic! Do you not believe that God will heal?” Many are guilted into becoming tabloid theologians thinking that this is what God would desire of the truly spiritual.

This dichotomizing of faith and intellect is not only destructive, I believe it is a sinful dishonoring of God by neglecting the stewardship of our mind. God calls on us to love Him with our entire being, the mind included. When a person believes anything and everything, this evidences a surrendering of the mind and jeopardizes the foundation of their belief.

I am not saying that God cannot heal back pain or send and angel with a message. But I am saying that I am not going to believe these type of stories until there is good reason to do so. I am a Christian critic. I am critical of all truth claims, especially those that are about God, and even more so about the sensational. Why? Because I must be. God has called me to be such a theologian. He has called us all to do the same. Our beliefs are too important to surrender based upon the smile of the seller or the good intentions of an email. Our beliefs forms the foundation of who we are. If our theology is built upon uncritical hear-say or unexamined sensationalistic claims, we are playing spiritual Russian roulette. The tabloid theologians theology will eventually come face to face with reality and it will not be able to stand. It will show itself to be naked of any ability to convince the mind. And as Jonathan Edwards said, “The heart will not accept what the mind rejects.” Eventually our “faith” will fall apart.

If you are a tabloid theologian, I encourage you to become more critical. I encourage you to evaluate truth claims as a skeptic. I know this sounds odd when speaking about God, the Bible, or Christianity, but you must do so. Make sure that any truth claims have an impressive resume before they are believed. When people call you unspiritual for being critical of their stories of divine intervention, take heart. God’s truth will always have an impressive resume. You are honoring God more by not being a simpleton.

The funny thing is that all false religious systems have no choice but to base their religion in tabloid theology. Christianity is the only one one that does not. Christianity invites, indeed, demands criticism, skepticism, discernment, and questions. True Christianity will pass the test.

Proverbs 8:5 You who are naive, discern wisdom! And you fools, understand discernment!

Proverbs 14:15 A naive person believes everything, but the shrewd person discerns his steps.

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