On Theological Correctness
I have been using the term ‘theological correctness’ now for some years, and when I am asked what it means, I say I just made it up, but it refers to the theological equivalent of political correctness. I just googled the term and notice that it is far from unique to me, but it is a handy term, so I will keep running with it.
PC, or political correctness, is now being escorted by TC, or theological correctness. Just as one can be politically incorrect, so too now one can be theologically incorrect. PC has to do with never daring to offend any group in the political or social arenas (except Christians of course).
Thus it is politically incorrect to dare to say anything critical or disparaging of the militant homosexual lobby, or the radical feminists, and so on. It is a form of censorship wherein certain topics are now simply off limits, and we are expected never to open our mouths about them.
To do so means one is politically incorrect. Of course I and many others wear our political incorrectness as a badge of honour. I will keep on speaking truth in the public until the forces of PC finally shut me down altogether.
But the sad thing is, in the religious world, and even in evangelical Christian circles, a new form of censorship is breaking out. Now we have theological correctness. There are now certain theological subjects which we are just expected not to discuss.
There are certain biblical themes and doctrines which those in the TC camp will not dare to touch. It is easy to give examples of this, and I have written a number of pieces recently on this. For example, in many Christian circles – even in Bible-believing ones – many topics will seldom if ever be heard.
Solidly biblical sermons on sin, the wrath of God, judgment, hell, the exclusive truth claims of Christ, the dangers of non-Christian religions, the perils of idolatry, the need for holiness, and the need to get back to being God-centred instead of man-centred, are just some of the topics which are now becoming taboo.
All you have to do is ask yourself when is the last time you heard a sermon on hell in your church, or a sermon on the need to carry your cross, deny yourself, and follow Christ in radical obedience. When is the last time you heard about the danger of apostasy, or the menace of religious syncretism?
The truth is, in many churches today we are hearing just the opposite. We are hearing a lot of TC baloney in other words in many of our churches. We are hearing about the value of interfaith and multifaith dialogue. We are hearing about all kinds of me-centred therapies and techniques.
We are hearing all about why believers should never judge anything or anyone. We are hearing all about how wrong it is for Christians to think they have the truth and other religions don’t. We are hearing all about how our understanding of homosexuality is all wrong, and we need to have a new way of thinking about all this.
Our churches are awash in theological correctness. Of course not too long ago we identified this rot by other names, such as theological liberalism or false teaching or heterodoxy or even heresy. But in today’s wishy washy theological climate, Christians can say and believe almost anything and not fear being corrected or challenged.
Thus we have best-selling authors going on about how hell is not a biblical doctrine, or how in the end everyone will be saved anyway. We have all kinds of basic biblical doctrines now openly being challenged and millions of Christians are soaking it up.
They either lack all biblical discernment, or they just no longer care about the very things the Bible says we should care about. Indeed, we are warned repeatedly in Scripture that what we believe and what we do matters a great deal. If we believe false things or do wrong things, that is a mega-no-no in the minds of the biblical writers. But we simply think it is being intolerant, unloving and narrow-minded.
The hundreds of passages which speak to the need of believing right doctrine and living holy lives seem to be completely ignored by so many believers today. Worse yet, many believers today seem to think that it is their prerogative to actually sit in judgment over the Word of God.
They are quite eager to ditch basic biblical doctrines in favour of the latest theological fads and trends, or worse still, in favour of the latest humanistic nonsense. They will put more weight on what some self-help guru says than the Apostle Paul said.
But things are even worse than that in these TC days. Many believers are now putting God in the dock, and sitting in judgment on him as well. They seem to think they are actually wiser, or more compassionate, or more loving, or more merciful than God is himself.
We see that time and time again as Christians claim that God would be unloving or unjust to allow anyone to go to hell, or to actually condemn a particular sinful lifestyle. They actually think they are smarter and kinder than even Jesus.
So when you next see me using the term theological correctness, or the acronym TC, you now know where I am coming from. And believe me, you can expect me to be using it a whole lot more often in days to come. I suspect things will be getting a lot worse here before they start getting better.
31 Replies to “On Theological Correctness”
Thank you, Bill, for a well needed reminder of the need to guard against all forms of watering down of doctrine and scripture.
Paul accurately described what’s happening in so much of the church in 2 Timothy 4:3 & 4 – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” I have been finding it very difficult to find a church to fellowship in where they stand on the truth of the Word of God.
As for standing in judgment over God, heaven forbid! – every day I find more and more how I can do NOTHING of value without Him.
Keep standing for truth, Bill.
Many thanks Morris
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Bill, you say, “PC, or political correctness, is now being escorted by TC, or theological correctness.”
I don’t know Bill. I guess if you mean escorted in terms of a bunch of groupies straggling after a disintegrating rock star all trying to ingratiate themselves in the hope that some of the stardust will rub off, then I would have to allow you ‘escorted’.
Otherwise, I would have to disagree. PC is definitely the pacesetter. The whole problem is that TC is led by PC. TC’s look to the world and not to the Scriptures. I think a better term might be PTC to remind us what TC really is.
But, as you’ve guessed, I’m quibbling.
Another excellent article.
Hi Bill, perhaps it would have been better if you had said “I will keep on speaking truth in the public until the forces of PC finally shut me down altogether or until the forces of PC are shut down.” I hope enough of the church wake up in time to ensure the latter.
Ewan McDonald, Victoria
Spot on, Bill. TC is a big worry. TC is what will kill the church in the West, not Islam or Socialism or any other big ideas/movements, because TC undermines the very foundation of Christianity and what is truly Christian. TC sounds very attractive to many people, and that is why it is so dangerous.
J. Gresham Machen points out that the church “is busily engaged in an absolutely impossible task – she is busily engaged in calling the righteous to repentence.” He goes on to say that modern preachers (this was back in the 1920s!!) were trying to bring people into the fold of Christianity “without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin.”
This really hit me hard when I read it, because I’m sure the situation is far worse now than it was in the 1920s.
Hey I am with you on that one.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Yes all the external threats you mentioned have to be taken quite seriously and carefully resisted, but you are quite right that it is often the church shooting itself which is the biggest worry.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
My opinion (merely that, and nothing more) is that the term “PC theology” (unlike “TC”) would not require explanation every time someone encounters it for the first time.
Without any explanation “Theological Correctness” sounds to the uninitiated a bit like orthodoxy (a measure of how correct the theology is), even though the intent is to identify theology which is *not* correct.
Thanks for another great article Bill. I am also concerned about the various paraphrases floating around these days, for example; The Message…I often hear people refer to it as the ‘Message Bible.’
Look at the Lord’s Prayer in The Message…….
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best — as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Keep us alive with three square meals??? Huh?
As above, so below?……Google this phrase and see what you come up with!
These concerns of mine really could raise a few TC eyebrows.
Annette Nestor, Perth
Unfortunately, there are many churches today that believe they’re more spiritual and more tolerant than God, whereas some pride themselves to be more loving than Jesus. Yet, these churches choose to ignore doctrinal issues such as the ones you have listed in your article. And sadly, some contemporary churches today solely base their doctrine on spiritual gifts rather than truth. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with spiritual gifts, but there needs to be a balance between ‘truth’ (the Word) and spiritual gifting. We can’t choose to have one and not the other.
The NT writers time and again, reiterated over the concerns of false and heretical teachings. The Lord Jesus warned His followers of false prophets dressed in sheep’s clothing in Matthew 7:15. At times we need to be reminded of those very words by Christ himself. A few verses later we read the parable of the two builders…
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man (a TC in other words) who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Mt. 7: 24 -27)”.
I have a pastor friend who told me a story of a church where he used to work. He gave a sermon on hell and some congregants asked him afterwards to please refrain from doing it again – as it upset their children. And, if he wouldn’t refrain from doing it again, could he please warn them in advance.
Kendra Mallock, US
Thanks for your extended answer to my question.
Being PC is like encouraging others to board the Titanic while staying safely on dry land.
Being loving and nice usually means NOT preaching the gospel, which would involve calling others sinner, wrong and other nasty things. People who are happy to watch the sinner go to hell as long as they don’t offend him on the way.
Romans 15:13 Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! The Message
I have a question:
What on earth is the God of green hope?
Bill I have been looking at ‘Theological correctness’ for over thirty years. The Presbyterians, in my opinion, handle this problem [curse] well. Has any one out there anything positive to say about anyone else?
Jesus commanded us to love one another… and, to treat others like we would treat ourselves. Whereas many Christians have confused this love with political correctness or in this case ‘ Theological Correctness’ . Jesus never commanded PC/TC, He commanded us to be followers of the ‘whole’ truth & not just parts of it!
Maybe somebody can help me. I got into a real tussle last sat night with 4 7th day adventist friends of mine. No I’m not one but yes i have friends from different
denominations. Anyway it seems I’m wrong about Hell but seriously have i got it wrong? I think Hell is a real place alive and kicking NOW. They say NO NO NO. I said what about Luke 16;23. No answer. Were all still friends well sort of. Maybe this is a taboo subject?
REV 2 : 1 Write this to Ephesus, to the Angel of the church. The One with Seven Stars in his right-fist grip, striding through the golden seven-lights’ circle, speaks:
The Message (Paraphrase)
Okay, now I have another question, actually four more questions:
1. Were the seven golden lamp stands/candlesticks formed in a circle? I hadn’t thought so, but I’m no Bible scholar.
2. If the answer to my first question is no, then is ‘the golden seven-lights circle’ supposed to present a fresh, new way of looking at the ‘old hat’ seven golden lamp stands? I find it confusing.
3. If some of my Christian friends refer to The Message as The Message Bible, does that mean that I am now questioning God’s Word? And am I judging Eugene Peterson?
4. If I google ‘seven circles’ on the internet, why do all these weird things come up?
Annette Nestor, Perth
Luke 16:19-31, and your critics’ silence on it, is a good part of your answer. It is true that what we call the intermediate state (the period between when a person dies and the final resurrection/judgment) is a bit unclear in Scripture, and the final state may be a bit different from this current state, but the Luke passage certainly tells us of dire straits for those unbelievers now. They may well face a final judgment and a final home in hell, but they are not doing very well right now. And there certainly is no indication of probation here, or a second chance, etc.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Yes some good questions there. I don’t have The Message, and it clearly is a rather loose paraphrase as opposed to a strict translation, but some of it does sound rather strange indeed.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Annette as I understand it a translation is the best literal translation of the text whereas a paraphrase tries to express the meaning in a meaningful way. In other words a translation is God’s word to the best of human ability whereas a paraphrase has been interpreted by man and then rewritten and so is prone to error whereas a translation is not.
Feel free to correct me.
Actually all translations, no matter how good they are, involve some amount of human interpretation. It is humans who do the translation, and they often have to decide which way a given word or phrase was meant to be understood, and how it can best be rendered into the host language. So some amount of interpretation cannot be avoided in the translation process.
And of necessity no translation will ever be perfect either. The original manuscripts (now lost to us) are perfect, or inerrant, but all of the later manuscripts and translations are not. But we can still get very close to the originals, and we can have a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of a properly done translation.
But I hope soon to write more on all this. In the meantime I deal with this a bit here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/14/a-review-of-the-esv-study-bible/
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
In your mention of examples relating to TC you forgot to mention the TC who insist that the early chapters of Genesis (the days of creation) “not be taken literally”. And that long age days or progressive creation over vast time was the go. Meaning, that the days and “nights” of creation lasted over a billions years; the animals were named by Adam after billions of years of death and dying; and that male and female were really not “form the beginning” as Christ stated, but appeared billions of years after the beginning. In short, a TC that fully accommodates and entrenches the deep time worldview of Darwinism and philosophical naturalism. Not important, the TC say! It’s not the main issue, they tells us. Such TC has thus made Christians totally oblivious to the fact that the Trojan horse of Darwinism and naturalism has been the principle weapon used by the anti-Christian establishment to discredit the early chapters of Genesis, and hence the foundations of the entire Christian worldview. As a consequence, it is evolutionary humanism that is now center stage, with Christianity now on the fringe struggling to be heard. With most Christians still trying to figure out what went wrong. And perhaps never will!
I have a bit of a problem with the phrase “Theological Correctness.” I don’t like it. Moreover, I think it will be confusing for many and counter productive. It’s difficult, I know, but I don’t think the phrase “Politically Correct” is readily transferable to “Theologically Correct.”
“Theological Correctness” works better; but there is a big difference between the political and the theological realms. In the political realm we expect diversity and think it a good thing. Whereas in the theological realm, diversity of opinion is not necessarily such a good thing. E.g. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” There is a theological correctness which is good. People who reject our Lord’s statement are in dangerous place. I would like to save the statement “theologically correct” as a positive expression.
Following are some attempts of mine to come up with an alternative. I did think of “The Nanny Church.” I also thought we could call it: “Political Correctness within the Church.” But I am not particularly drawn to either. “Anti-Christian Conformity and Political Correctness” makes the acronym ACPC. The only reason I like this is because it is a little like ACDC. But I am still not in love with it. For you and me “Theological Correctness = Theological Cowardice.” So perhaps you should call it TCTC or TC squared (with a small 2 above the C). But I don’t like acronyms, they are invariably elitist. I think C.S.Lewis would disapprove. I am certain he would have encouraged us to use something more guttural and with more popular poetic diction to it.
Maybe you should run a competition and allow the winning entry the honour of writing a covering blog story on you site or some other prize.
When I was initially motivated to write, I wanted to share the wonderful quote from Martin Luther again:
“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
This statement has a reality which I always find both compelling and confronting.
If your ministry must be shut down, my prayer is that that many others will awakened to God’s truth before such an event. May the Lord multiply His work by any attempt to silence you. Who knows, perhaps such a thing will not come to pass.
Either way may He bless you.
I once congratulated my old pastor for his challenging sermon (which was out of norm for him to deliver). He was genuinely taken aback and replied that he was just waiting for all the “complaints to come in”. This went a long way to describing why his, and I fear, other pastors have chosen a more conciliatory, softer set of messages. It’s like living on a diet of fairy floss, sweet but will eventually kill you.
Yes quite right Peter.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Re TC: one problem is that I believe that many ‘Christians’ are not ‘Christians’ at all. Many who sit in the pews across the country (world) every week are not saved at all and therefore lack the discernment of the indwelling HS! Let’s pray for the next Reformation!
Chris, I have to say I agree, Theological correctness can mean totally opposite things to different people. It can mean being theologically correct in terms of compromising the Gospel to conform to current liberal theological trends, or an uncompromising “theological correctness” to Christ’s truth.
A more definitive term would be better. For me TC represents theological compromise, whereas CT represents Christ’s truth, which is to be TC (theologically correct) in the right sense of the word. Cliches can get rather messy, and thus convey no meaning at all.
Theological correctness as you describe it is certainly rampant. However, the “believers” engaged in it, those who choose to invent a “Christian” faith of their own liking, rather than submit to and obey the faith once for all delivered to the saints as we find it in the Word of God, are likely deceived unbelievers. How could it be otherwise? True believers are characterized by sound faith/doctrine, obedience, and love. The “believers” in your theologically correct world don’t qualify. “Believers” engaged in apostasy and deceived by false teaching need to hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ so that they can be saved, not merely chided for their theological correctness. And yes, this means that vast swaths of the visible church today are pastored by and filled with unbelievers.
Richard F. Horan
I would just like to say i agree with you. Not to say I’m right and everyone else is wrong but, that’s my take on the majority of Christians Ive met throughout my life. To me, they talk alot and mostly about oh God has really blessed me and even one woman who danced at the front of the church every week, with the cry ohhh I’m so drunk in the spirit. More straight forward talk i say.
Pastor Dr. Tony Evans reminds we who are saved by grace through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we need only concentrate on spreading the Gospel with a loving heart and living in obedience, that the only thing that can politically or spiritually be taken from us is what we give up. I’m not giving up anything God has given me. The Great Commission demands daily devotion, in all conditions, at all times.
I am tired of hearing that our churches are lumped together in general shambles. Not true. There are many great men and women of God out there laying out the Gospel eloquently, clearly under Gods direction and influence. If your pastor is not, run to someone who is, today. You will know you need to move if you don’t hear Christ crucified, raised from the dead, coming again – and that you “MUST be born again”- His own Words. We have the greatest text ever written, the greatest story ever told, the God-given right to proclaim Him, and the only question we need to ask ourselves at the end of the day is: Did I do all I could to build His Kingdom today? (Should be asked while praying and listening for His answer). The most wonderful privilege in life is proclaiming the precious name of Jesus Christ. Our worship goes to God through Jesus. Psalm 2, 2-5 covers those who would stymie our evangelism, saying: “The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take council together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.”
See, we don’t have to worry about anything but building the Kingdom by our obedience to Him. He has them handled.
Ps. 2:12 “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him.”
Bill: It seems that you and many others have stolen my thunder. I thought I had invented the term! One of the worst examples I see today of TC in academia is the way one is required to speak of Karl Barth. Only the most gentle critique of his theological method is allowed — and then only if you preface your remarks by distancing yourself from Cornelius Van Til and Carl Henry, whose “extreme” views on Barth are a “caricature.” I just finished reading a book by an author who praised Barth as a prophet for our time who “restored the Bible to it’s place of honor.” Curious to see his justification for this I was astonished as he quoted Barth saying (with enthusiasm, mind you) that the Bible is a book about God. Satan himself would qualify for theological greatness if that is the standard now. There are sadly many more examples I could give. Thanks for your courageous “extremism.”