Out of Bad Theology into the Truth

“Bad Theology debilitates

a proper proclamation of Christ in the world.”

--Dr. John Warwick Montegomery

A powerful truth said to me by Dr. Montgomery as we discussed my thesis as it will focus on some pretty serious errors going on in the Pentecostal movement I had grown up in through to this day. In my research I’ve come across incorrect theology quite a lot. There are misinterpretations of the Scripture galore along with some behaviors that simply shocked me. Over the past few weeks I’ve struggled about how to deal with this in my thesis and view the fellowship I grew up in.

When I was a Calvinist I was told that I was not truly saved until I came to believe the Reformed confessions. How could that be? What about those who never believe the Calvinist system? Are only Calvinists saved? What about those who came before Calvin and the continental reformers like Wyclyf, Hus, Ireanaus, Augustine, Chrysostrom or even Luther? Not one of those believed all that Calvin and his friend Bucer (who really pushed Calvin’s teachings further than Calvin did himself) wrote and taught. This leads to the question: Is one saved by knowledge? That could and does lead to a Reformed Gnosticism (salvation by all your theological ducks in a row). This actually discounts a gifted faith which Scripture speaks of “saved by grace not of works lest any man boast.” The conclusion is this cannot be right. In fact, it leads to doubt and confusion because even within the Reformed circle of churches, they don’t all agree with Calvin on everything and have differing confessions of faith that don’t always agree either.

Back to Bad Theology. I grew up in a church that fostered the teaching of the “inner light” and the “deeper life”. The inner light was about hearing God within, experiencing God within. Popular authors were Br. Lawrence, Madam Guyon and Martha Wing Robinson. Each taught that we could hear God in our own heart apart from the Scriptures. In Robinson’s book, Radiant Glory, she recounts times God would tell her things just before leaving her home. In both Br. Lawrence’s book, Practicing the Presence of God, he too often recounts visions and personal messages from God to him regarding every day life. In Madam Guyon’s writings we have the same inner light that guides her. Much of this inner light, though, does not match the Word of God, you know, the written Word. Instead, it is emotional and subject to the person as to whether or not it is true.