What if we have it wrong? What if we believe things that aren’t true? The sad part is that most of Western culture does. We have replaced important theological truths with nice motivational sayings that simply aren’t truth. This is Folk Theology (FT).
Many of you are probably asking, “What is Folk Theology?” In their book Who Needs Theology? Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson define it as a “kind of theology that rejects critical reflection and enthusiastically embraces simplistic acceptance of an informal tradition of beliefs and practices composed mainly of clichés and legends.” How do I personally define Folk Theology? I define it as a set of beliefs accepted by either Christ-followers or not-yet-believers that fail to line up accurately with Scripture. These beliefs usually have roots in the Bible but have lost their accurate meaning through hearsay and poor preaching from the pulpit. FT is the quintessential telephone game (or Chinese Whispers). Someone said a Bible verse and somewhere along the line the whole verse was misconstrued. The problem is that so many people like FT that when they heard the misinterpreted verse, they didn’t correct it and instead made a fancy meme or sermon on it. Thus, we have FT.
I want to speak a few words on the grave dangers of FT. I have used the hashtag #FolkTheologyKills and for good reason. When we have wrong or misconstrued thoughts on God (Theology), Jesus (Christology), The Holy Spirit (Pneumatology), eschatology (study of the end times), etc., we run the risk of developing a whole doctrine off a wrong belief. Furthermore, if we believe (as my first topic will address) that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle, but we find ourselves in a spot where we are overwhelmed, we become bitter with God because we believe He won’t give us anything we can’t handle. FT will give you a false expectation of who Yahweh is and it will devastate and destroy the true and glorious image of the Creator. For believers and not-yet-believers alike, before you believe a fancy meme, make sure you do your homework before you develop a false theology. Some things sound really, really good when you read it online, but that doesn’t make it truth. Folk Theology will kill the true theology of God and in the long run only hurt you.
In this four part series I am going to look at three different phrases adopted by the Western Culture that apparently they would like to amend into the canon (The Christian Bible). I will be looking at:
1. God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.
2. God gained another angel tonight.
3. God wants to prosper me and give me a good future. (Which is biblical, but SOOOOOO taken out of context).
The next part is taken from Part 5 of this series.
I want to remind you that Folk Theology kills. It kills the real Yahweh and births your own made up idolatrous version of Him. It kills what could mean your real hope and prosperity in Yahweh. It kills other people who don’t know Yahweh or the Messiah Jesus. So before you rattle off some ridiculous theological phrase, think about four things:
- Biblical – Is this Biblical?
- Supported – Is this supported by other scriptures and/or 2,000+ years worth of theological doctrine?
- Original – Is this what the original authors/hearers would have understood?
- Context – What is the original context
(Brian Saves One Christian)
I encourage all of you to take classes on hermeneutics/exegesis (Pastors, if you have the means, please teach these priceless tools to your congregation). If you love Jesus or if you’re just curious about Scripture in general, you and those around you will benefit from your ability to critically examine the Bible.
If you have any phrases you would like to see me discuss or any that you think are bad, post them in the comments below. Just remember three things: (1) respect others, (2), use scripture to back your point and (3) use context (e.g. Jeremiah 29:11 that I’ll be discussing).
 Roger E. Olson Stanley J Grenz, Who Needs Theology? (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996).
Folk Theology: Jeremiah 29:11 is speaking directly to me. Original Verse: Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” The Issue I...
From Justin I want to introduce you to one of my good theological buddies, Nick Potts. We've known each other for about 5-6 years now. Nick and I agree that theology is both practical and essential for our lives as Christ-followers. I asked him...
Folk Theology: “God Gained Another Angel” Original Verse (usually) Referred To: Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:36 “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in Heaven.” Without going into all...
Folk Theology: “God will never give me more than I can handle.” Original Verse: “12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful;...