I think I may have figured out one reason I’m turned off people start talking about popular theology (or at least one popular theological viewpoint). I feel that a lot of popular theology seems to have to do with being impressed with God from afar. It’s kind of like if someone were to talk about why they thought a certain president was so great. Or why Mother Teresa was such an inspiration. Or how smart Einstein was. That’s all fine and good, but where do you go with it? You may be enamored by the person. You may tell other people how great they were (though I doubt how compelling this will be). It seems like the most your admiration could do is to inspire you to try and be like the person you admire (though since you aren’t that person, this could well be an exercise in frustration).
But what if someone told you about a good friend of theirs. Perhaps this person is great like Mother Teresa, smart like Einstein, etc. But isn’t it much more compelling when someone can share the good things about this person from first hand experience? They tell you about what a wonderful person their friend is and how they’re so glad to know them. What if they shared how you could get to know this person yourself, how great they are, and how they can really make a difference in your life too. To me, this is a much more interesting proposition.
It seems to me that much popular theology is designed to separate us from God. Now I don’t believe anyone would say this or really intend this, but it seems to be the natural conclusion to the theological position. God is indescribably higher than us. He is holy and we are not (until our sanctification). But isn’t it possible to emphasize these things more than God does himself?
Throughout the Bible God tries to have a relationship with people. I think one particular story in the old testament is quite telling and instructive. When God meets with the Israelites after coming out of Egypt, he is intending to have a relationship with all of Israel. But they are afraid of God and ask Moses to speak to them on God’s behalf. It is true that God at that time needed to demonstrate that he is the one and only true God, and as such he should be respected and followed. However I don’t believe that God wanted them to be so afraid that they didn’t want to hear from him. “We’ll worship you by making this golden calf and having a party…” In other words, they wanted to have a show of religion without actually having a relationship with the living God. Why? Because of fear. Yes, we should “fear” God in the sense of having proper respect for him, but not in the sense that we distance ourselves from him. I mean, he came down to earth so that he could be closer to us. That doesn’t sound like a God who can’t look at sin.