Eugene Cho

what is the most important thing?

Over the course of this past weekend and my recent post about hell, universalism, exclusivism and other exclusive elititistic theological words and constructs, I’ve shared on numerous occasions both my deep appreciation for theology and simultaneously, the danger of theology. I wrote:

Theology is important. No matter what others may say or think, it has great value and importance. In fact, I would contend that one of the aspects that ails the Church is the lack of theological depth and substance. The [C]hurch are a bunch of lightweight theological dummies.

But my point is that while theology is indeed very important, it’s not the most important thing. If theology was the most important thing, we’d be screwed as salvation would rest in humanity’s ability to understand with absolute clarity.

Depending on how you approach the theological process, it’s understandable for people to formulate or arrive to the natural question:

“What then is the most important thing?”

and even more so…

“How do we arrive at the revelation of the most important thing apart from theology?”

Again, I’m not discounting the importance of theology. It is very important; It helps us to arrive at the most important thing but what I’m trying to convey is that “the most important thing” is not just a thing. It is the amazing and infinite God and God exists and endures apart from our theology. God’s existence, glory, and truth does not hinge on humanity’s ability to “theologize” and comprehend and this is good news because our human finitude cannot fully grasp the infinitude of God.

The good news for us today, tomorrow, and all the days of our lives is that Truth is not merely propositional.

God is not abstractual; God is not conceptual; God is not nebulous; God is not distant; God is not angry

God has become personal to us.

This Truth has become personified in the person of Jesus Christ.

God has descended. God has come to us. God, through his Son, Jesus, has moved into our neighborhood and into our hearts. Jesus who was fully God – yet chose to become fully human and in great love, chooses obedience – even unto death – so that we might be reconciled.

Salvation has been given so that we would be reconciled and and be compelled to live as agents of God’s work of salvation and reconciliation in the world.

And while we do arrive and continue to arrive and grow in that revelation through the humble process of theology, there is great danger when we place too much faith in the human process of theology – however robust, righteous, or right we might think of ourselves. This philosophical thinking puts us back to square one where – with different words – we’ve masked Christianity as humanity’s attempt and ability to understand. And thus, a Christianized version of religion.

The great remedy: We worship God and not ourselves.

Have I thoroughly confused you?

In other words, remember…

we love God…because God first loved us!
1 John 4:19

Listen to this recent sermon. Preaching from Philippians 3:1-7, I attempt to answer the question about the most important thing.

What makes us uniquely Christian…is the unique work of Christ.

Filed under: bible, faith, Jesus, , ,

18 Responses

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  2. Andy M says:

    If theology was the most important thing, then I think that Jesus, 2000 years later, would still be here trying to get us to understand God (no cross or resurrection), and we humans in our vast wisdom would likely be trying to tell the Son of God what he’s understood incorrectly about God.

    I love talking theology, but I thank God that I don’t have to take a Theology final for entrance to His Kingdom.

  3. elderj says:

    but… all of those bolded statements you made ARE theology…

  4. John Cook says:

    I agree in sentiment to what your saying, but I think the point of the “issue” is missed a little. This post and the one before came out of the Rob Bell issue. I don’t think that Piper, Justin Taylor, or any of the other “neo-calvinist” that have commented on Bell’s vid/book would agree with you that Theology is not the most important thing. I think they would clearly agree that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the God that that gospel reconciles us to is the most important thing. I think the issue being raised by these guys is not trying to make Theology more important, but standing up for battle for the sheep of God against a teaching that could clearly lead them astray. I think this is definitely what Paul means when he tells the Ephesian elders to stand guard against the wolves that would rise up “from among your own selves speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Is this not what you see as happening?

    So again, I agree with you that theology is not the most important thing, but that does not mean we should not stand against bad theology when it is leading sheep to the wolves. And before you come back with, “yeah, but who deems ‘bad theology’, 🙂 let me say that, from what we know from book description and Rob’s video, if he’s leaning the perceived way it’s clearly not a gray theological issue, and should be stood against for the sake of the sheep.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      john,

      thanks for agreeing in sentiment. 😉

      and yes, i concur with you as well. as i shared in the previous post:

      I liked the original post by Justin Taylor that set off the firestorm. I actually think it’s important and on occasion, for people to “fight” and contend for our convictions.

      if there’s some encouragement that i’ve found in the recent chaos, it’s the fact that people are willing to contend for their convictions – whatever they may be.

    • Andy M says:

      We should stand against bad theology, but I would disagree with your statement about whether it is a gray theological issue, concerning Rob Bell’s book and such. There is enough disagreement by intelligent faithful people out there that makes the issue up for discussion. For every Christian who thinks Rob Bell is speaking heresy, there is a Christian who sees truth in his teachings. This is not just a black and white issue.

      • John Cook says:

        Andy, the stance that it seems Rob Bell has taken is that a loving God would not ever really send someone to hell. The problem with this stance is, well…the Bible. If you take this stance then the Bible is full of lies, more importantly Christ came to earth, suffered and died for no reason at all, and excepting his payment for our sin by faith in Him is not needed. These are in no way gray issues. These are the very foundation of our faith. I would contend that if a “christian” is preaching this as the “gospel,” then it is a severely false gospel and even damnable.

        I appreciate your challenge of my comment, but I cannot agree with you that Bell’s stance is a gray issue. That stance tears down the very foundation of our faith.

        • Andy M says:

          First, you have simplified Rob Bell’s take on this to a point I highly doubt he would agree. He says a lot more on the subject, and I’m sure he will say a lot more on the subject in his book. To assume that all he believes is, “a loving God would not ever really send someone to hell.” as his complete answer to the question is to not listen to anything else he says.

          Second, the subject of heaven and hell is a gray area as scripture is incredibly vague and unhelpful when you are trying to figure out the details (maybe it was meant that way). More people think that heaven and hell are like what Dante and Milton imagined than what scripture gives us.

          I’ve read good challenges to the traditional views of heaven and hell (ones that account for sin and uphold justice as well as mercy and grace), and while I haven’t decided exactly what I believe is correct, I have seen enough to know it isn’t just a black and white, believe this one particular perspective or you destroy the faith, issue.

  5. Our theology is a description of what we believe God says about himself. It is formulated by sinners, people who a prone to deceive themselves and one another. It cannot be perfect. Piper’s theology cannot be perfect, Taylor’s theology cannot be perfect, Bell’s theology cannot be perfect, my theology cannot be perfect.

  6. I don’t know anyone who’s chosen this for their “life verse,” but one of my favorite and most impactful lines in the Bible comes in Hebrews – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” It’s incredibly comforting to me in a world that is so unstable. Christ will not be changed, whatever we think of him, whatever we think we know about him, however we treat him, however we change. He is the only constant in a universe full of variables.

  7. Jim Chen says:

    Thanks Pastor Eugene for making us aware of what’s going on! The most important thing is GOD and GOD’s revealed Son, the LORD Jesus Christ, and GOD is TRUTH, but when you come by His side, He tells you the most important things are the people you CAN reach for Him. Not reaching, overreaching, just love them by serving, just stay connected to them faithfully, in this way, ‘room is made’ for the Spirit of the LORD, Who really does the ‘work’. He/She will tell you what to do. We’re just helping, but in helping we are helped and blessed. It is the most amazing witness to see GOD moving and working, and humbling yet exhilarting at the same time to be a part of Him. He really wants to love and love in return, but we must pass throu the FIRE of Servanthood before we can reach the Paradise of His House. It is not easy, and there are those who have it. Be encouraged and go forth!

  8. […] me song, email made easier,….. really?, Piper on no-one ever speaking like Jesus, Cho on the most important thing, Liddell and running the race, Ed Youngs advice to young leaders, leadership complexity, […]

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 1 day ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 1 day ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 4 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 4 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 4 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago