Theory vs. Reality. How Do You Understand God And The Christian Life?

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

A few days ago I read a blog post on the subject of stillness in prayer. It was well written with story, illustrations, quotes, and whimsical language. However, it left me unmoved and frustrated. Why? Because the writer wrote out of a theory of prayer not the experience of it. You could tell that he knew about stillness in prayer but was missing the actual ongoing experience of stillness. This is not unusual. I fear that most self-proclaimed Christians live in theory not reality. It’s easy to quote the Bible as if it’s a book of ideas. But really living it is a different matter altogether. 

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What is a theory?

Here’s a compilation of definitions: the-o-ry: a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained. A set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based. An idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action. 

Can you see how your understanding of the Christian life could actually be theory – ideas and principles? Can you see how your understanding of God and His ways could actually be theory – simply ideas and principles? Holding to certain ideas, even good ones, about God will not transform your life. 

The truth is, you cannot think your way into Christlikeness, holiness, love, or any virtue. Yet that is how many Christians behave. They think that one more book, seminar, conference, video, movie, or sermon will satisfy the desire of their heart for God. 

James K. A. Smith, PhD, professor of philosophy, offers this insight: “We learn to love, then, not primarily by acquiring information about what we should love but rather through practices that form the habits of how we love.”  

Are you tired of drinking the Kool-aid of Christian theory? Do you desire to drink from the inexhaustible cup of God’s righteousness, life, goodness and love? Then, develop real habits that open your heart to the wellspring of God. 

In the next few posts, I’ll be exploring the question posed by a disciple to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus did not give them ideas about prayer. He gave them words to say and a way to say them. That is, He gave them a practice that was to become habitual. Jesus was not a theorist. He was a realist who knew how lives could be transformed. 

How has your life been influenced by a theoretical understanding of God?  How are you challenging those ideas? 

Dr. K