German-born American physicist Albert Einstein said 'We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them'.
A friend of mine has recently adapted this quote to say 'our problems can't be solved by the theological mindset that created them'. This quote could be adjusted to cover a number of different equations. One iteration that has been proposed concerns politics. Most of us are used to thinking of 'politics', as having to do with secular government, and usually local, state, or federal governments. The Wikipedia article, though, that I found on this subject, says, 'Politics (from Greek πολιτικός, "of, for, or relating to citizens"), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions.' Put simply; the Merriam-Webster Dictionary ( on-line ) defines 'politics' as 'the art or science of government'. As can easily be perceived in both of these definitions; religious ideals, both the theorization and propagation of them, fall under the definition of 'politics', maybe most noticeably in the past several hundred years ( except maybe for those more familiar with Church History ), but have been pervasive throughout the entire history of the Church, beginning with the political situation that Peter was faced with at Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 11. Throughout the book of Acts, we can read of numerous instances where the apostles are 'called on the carpet' for challenging the theo-political mindset of the day ( they also, along with Jesus, dared to challenge, not only the prevailing social, but geo-political perception ).
Theology, or 'the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world' ( again, according to Merriam Webster's ), of course, has been around since the beginning of time, and especially since the beginning of the creation of God's covenant with His people. Though differing to a greater or lesser degree, man, through his perception of his Creator, has always carried his own theology of that Creator. The physical children of Israel ( Jacob ), from their conception, had a fairly collective idea of Who God is, and what He required. Whether or not, or to what extent, their perception of YHWH ( more commonly known as Jehovah ) was correct could be argued, but it is clear, from the stiff resistance that Jesus and the apostles confronted; that their theology, through their adherence to the letter of the Law, was somewhat lacking. Paul outlines for his readers, only secondarily, and throughout his letters, the opposition that he fought against from this prevailing theology.
We face much the same situation in the Church today, striving against a faulty theology, although, except in the realm of eschatology, or the study of last things, our picture, or ideological perception of God is much the same. Though our theologies are fairly orthodox, for the most part; our differences, as pertaining to eschatology especially, do have far-reaching implications, even where it comes to discerning the nature of God. Is Jehovah a God that keeps His promises to His people, when He says He will ( Matthew 24:34 ) and how He says He will ( Matthew 16:27 )? If not; how can we really trust anything else He says or does?
What's wrong with our socio-political mind-set?
Our political mind-set, of course, has, at it's core, our perception, and thus conception of who and what God is, our theology. Depending on this perception/conception; most people will live their lives accordingly. If one believes that those with whom he comes in contact have, like oneself, been created in the image of an ultimately loving and care God, the Creator and sustainer of life Who also stands as our Father; we will most likely treat our fellow human beings in much the same way, as siblings, belonging, ultimately, to the same family. If we believe that God is no different, no better than us, reneging on His promises, or just plain being mistaken, and even powerless when it comes to His own creation, with a petty and vindictive nature like ours; we will most likely treat our brothers and sisters accordingly, treating some as better than others, depending on their social or religious status, and will end up proving in our own lives, both public and private, our very perception of God. Is this to say that those who sometimes fail to act upon their purported beliefs, pettily and vindictively treating others differently then they themselves would wish to be treated, have a faulty theology in their view of the nature of God? That's not what I'm saying at all: we're all human, after all, and prone, by our nature ( human, not fallen ( Adamic ), to be selfish, petty, and vindictive. However, through the grace of God, and depending on our perception and reception of that Grace; we can over-come our innate selfishness, and treat our brethren as brethren, ultimately, again, through the grace of God, reconciling His people with Himself!
The institutional church ( or Church, as some might say ) has failed, in the social arena, and in fellowship and love, it's ministry to share the Good News of the Kingdom with many of the less than desirable creatures in society, namely those that do things with which we, whether for a 'solid' Scriptural reasons or not, do not agree or associate ( except maybe secretly ) with! As has been shown through the writings of quite a few authors; I believe that much of the Church's failure can be blamed on a certain theological factor, or even factors, and that the only way that we will fix the 'problems', not only in today's society, but in today's church, is to change, even expand, through the Holy Spirit, and the strength of the Body of Christ, our theological views, not only of eschatology, but the trickle-down effect that it must have on our ministry.
What's wrong with our theological mind-set?
More and more today, the Church of God is either re-examining the prevailing and orthodox view, especially eschatology ( and its far-reaching implications ), or acting as the Church should in many arenas, in spite of that theological mindset. I see this as a positive thing! Through these actions, which are geared toward building God's Kingdom on earth, and is a step in the right direction ( though we may label these brethren 'futurists'; they still have an eschatology of victory ), I believe that we will see God's Kingdom, His people, continually increase, as prophesied in places like Isaiah 9 and Daniel 2!
For far to long; the idea that Christ will return to solve all of our problems, has led many in His Church to isolate themselves from the 'world', reasoning that Christ will take care of it, when He returns and sets up His Kingdom on earth, thus bringing in the new heavens and earth, that Isaiah wrote of ( Isaiah 65:17 ). The thing that we seem to have forgotten ( speaking collectively here ) is that God, in Christ has already solved our problems, the main problem being sin, which no one can truly deny, Christ took care of in His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross! Many have missed the fact that we ( the Church ) are His Kingdom on earth, and that, through the power given us by the in-dwelling of His Holy Spirit, and as the 'Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ), have been made rulers with Him, and that, like the first Adam in the Garden, have been given the dominion over the rest of His creation!
Because of our latent laziness and apathy ( selfishness ), the prevalent theological mind-set present in much of today's institutional church has further encouraged us, again, collectively, to become even more selfishly apathetic, and to hand over more and more of our God-given rights and freedoms, and caused us to cede much, if not all, of our duties to the secular state and federal governments, rather than doing what we have been enabled to, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and having the dominion that He gave us anew, over ourselves, our families, and our society.
In the Spirit of Holiness,
Charles Haddon Shank