In the preface to his work Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem says this:

I am convinced that there is an urgent need in the church today for much greater understanding of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology. Not only pastors and teachers need to understand theology in greater depth—the whole church does as well. One day by God’s grace we may have churches full of Christians who can discuss, apply, and live the doctrinal teachings of the Bible as readily as they can discuss the details of their own jobs or hobbies—or the fortunes of their favorite sports team or television program. (1)

When interviewed recently by Glenn Beck, Jerry Falwell, Jr. said, “we can argue about theology later after we save the country.”  It can be difficult to get at the actual meaning in someone’s mind when we hear them quoted.  But the words used in this sentence seem to be so self-evident, I can’t see any ambiguity in Falwell’s words. 

If you read Grudem’s words again, is there a word that leaps out at you?  I agree with his paragraph and am impacted heavily by his choice of the word “urgent”.  Falwell makes it clear that “saving our country” is a more urgent pursuit than the church’s task to share the gospel.  The two are not the same – Falwell clearly understands that and separates the two, assigning more importance to changing our society.  Theology can come later.

Since he’s talking to Beck, his definition of “theology” would be the difference between evangelicalism and Mormonism.  But in context, he widens the scope by also including Jews, Catholics and unbelievers (click here for the whole interview).   Those represent a vast spectrum of beliefs.  Beliefs such as who God is (or if He even exists), who humans are, why humans are here and where are we going.  Orthodox Christian beliefs on man’s purpose for existence, sin, the cross as the remedy for sin, how to be reconciled to God and many others are foundational.  One might even say this set of beliefs (or our theology) defines who we are.

But do we consider it urgent?  It’s not on the newscasts or in the papers.  We generally don’t think about those beliefs or talk about them to our family and friends as much as we do politics.  The sad truth is that the church in America is focused on our nation’s moral trajectory more than the reason for our nation’s moral trajectory.  America’s problem is not found in our laws, it’s found in our hearts.  The gospel is the only solution to that problem.

We’re all concerned about where our nation is headed, but when a well-known Christian leader downplays the importance of God’s primary plan for impacting the world for His glory, damage is done to the collective conscience of the church.  Theology that is informed by the Scriptures is the message we have to share with a culture that is rotting.  Biblical theology itself tells us what our mission is in this world:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you;” Matthew 28:19

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 

this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:  Colossians 1:27b, 28

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.  Colossians 4:5, 6

I’m not advocating staying silent on our culture’s slide into more and more corruption.  In a representational republic, we are free to take part in efforts to stem the godless tide.  Those efforts have to be biblically informed as well, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that doing a societal cleanup is the main task of a Christian.  As urgent as our nation’s problems seem, we should deem sharing accurate truths about God, and people’s relationship to God, as more urgent.

(1) Grudem, W. A. (1994). Systematic theology : An introduction to biblical doctrine (18). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.