Theology or testimony?

Allow me to create a slightly false dichotomy. I have noticed two types of Christian conversation happening in my life: theologizing and testifying. I theologize when I discuss spiritual things that I don’t actually experience and or know anything about in the biblical sense of ‘knowing’. Theologizing conversations have no direct link to my own growth or walk with God. Rather, they usually fill some sort of emptiness in my mind or heart and so they are interesting on a carnal level of curiosity or escapism.

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Christian conversation without testimony

When I testify in conversations, on the other hand, I share what God has initiated in my life. I point to real events and moments that reveal God at work in me and in the world. Unlike theologizing, testifying doesn’t often fill some blank in me. It usually happens because I am overflowing. Something that struck me yesterday again was that theologizing can be a poor substitute for testifying in our conversations. Theology doesn’t require a living God – it merely requires a human brain. On the other hand, it is very hard to share genuine testimony without the reality of God in our lives. Now, of course, this is a false dichotomy. Revelation requires meditation, and meditation requires revelation. Let’s get both in the right balance in our lives. But reality produces theory, not the other way round. So I hope you get my point.

It has been said that the Jews only became theologizers when prophecy dried up in the land during the 400 year silence before John the Baptist. When God left the Temple, the people of God became instead the people of the Book. They didn’t see God at work anymore, and so they speculated about everything. In other words, when we have God’s presence we tell stories and share revelation, but when we don’t we theologize and share information. When we are spiritually lonely, we become spiritually theoretical.

I don’t know if it is totally true, but I can relate to that. Can you? What mix of theology and testimony do your conversations have?

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4 thoughts on “Theology or testimony?

    • Hi kansasbob,

      Could your relate to the piece you quoted? What has your experience been of this? Something I love is when I have fellowship with other Christians who testify. It seems so refreshing and often has the appropriate emotions attached compared to theologizing. I must say there can be times when people testify and the heart behind it is not right. But I also really worry when we gather together to discuss the Word or just hang together and there are no stories of what God is doing. I remember one preacher saying that if your testimony is older than three weeks, you should worry! I don’t say I believe that, but I get the point.

  1. Yes, I can totally relate.

    In my own life, I see more of the Spirit leading me to let go and not try and be in total control of what I say. This means, for instance, when I’m blogging: don’t try to nail down everything you mean and don’t in a post or comment. Just come out and say it. Clarify later if you need. Or for instance, when I’m comforting my pregnant wife, if I feel the Spirit leading me down a certain line of thought for encouragement, don’t try and think about, modify it, worry how it comes out—just say it and rely on Him to bring understanding.

    I think it’s funny how Jesus was kind of like this. He talked and talked and talked but didn’t due too much explaining. He was fine with being misunderstood. He probably didn’t like it, but got over that, quickly realizing those who got ears, got ears.

    So, in my own life, I think I’ve seen God pushing more of the “testimony” aspect when I’m talking with friends, but on my own time, I really get a lot out of studying His Word or aspects of it theologically. So one seems to be more private with me at the moment, and the other more vocal. Both give me encouragement, but I think they both feed me the different ways my personality and temperament work together. Most likely, not everyone shares this complementary relationship how I do. But for me, that’s how things have seemed to play out recently.

    Thanks for the penetrating thoughts.

  2. Hi JC,

    In response to “What has your experience been of this?”

    Years ago (in my more Charismatic/Pentecostal leaning days) there was a huge focus about experiencing God with spiritual gifts and the like. These days I find God more in the mundane things of life like laughter, sharing a meal with friends and experiencing the love of family and friends.

    What has been your experience?

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