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!

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One Day’s Wages

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#notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
May we keep working 
on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times. Minhee and I are filled with gratitude as we reflect on the @onedayswages gala last night. So many friends and guests came to support our work...and of course, our scrappy staff, interns, and board. In 8 years, we've impacted 561,000 people around the world that are living in extreme poverty and vulnerable situations. This year, we are expecting to have our largest investment of grants at $1.3 million! Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to share some of those stories of impact.

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