I was theologizing this morning in the shower (the best place to theologize). My thought was, “When does theology become bad?” To say that is becomes bad simply because it is incorrect is not going far enough because so-called good theology can become bad when it is applied wrongly. It is true that incorrect theology will lead to bad theology. So maybe it is best to define our terms at this point.
How does one define correct theology? I think there are at least three ways to determine this:
1. For theology to be correct, it must be correct biblically. In other words, the theology must not violate Scripture. I also that this is the most important criteria for determining correct theology.
2. For theology to be correct, it must also be historically accurate. In other words, is this how the church has historically defined this issue? This can be a tricky one, because many denominations have historically defined some doctrinal issues differently, but on the essentials of Christianity (I define the essentials as those listed in the Apostles’ Creed) the church has generally had one historic interpretation. An example of where theology can go wrong historically is the doctrine of the Trinity. Historically, the Trinity has been defined as one God in three persons, but certain sects of Christianity, Oneness Pentecostals for example, teach that it is God in three forms, not persons. This is historically incorrect and thus leads to incorrect theology.
For theology to be correct, it should generally fit neatly into your system of theology. I have often viewed theology as a head of hair (ironic, don’t you think?). On one extreme, you can have George McFly hair, flawless and slicked back. At the other extreme, your theology can be like Alfalfa from Our Gang with that one large portion of hair sticking straight up in the air. It is not necessary that your theology fit into a neat box. Pre-packaged Christianity is not what we are after. Even the best theologians can be rough around the edges. But if part of your theology sticks out as inconsistent with the rest of your theology, it is most likely incorrect and can become very bad if you do not address it.