Theology is important. Some people want to say it’s not important because they think “true freedom” can’t be found if you try to comprehend God. They expect that we are to make God out of our experiences.
But that’s not how it works.
Typically, their denial of theology comes from some past experience they had with a church, pastor, or person who turned doctrine into an idol. But just like with all things, there’s a balance. Theology should always be coupled with zeal and experience, it shouldn’t be just one or the other.
Why? Because solely living out of zeal and experience is dangerous. If God is simply a God of your experience, you will no doubt craft an idol of Him in your image. You’ll file all of your own personal conceptions and misconceptions of who He is into the same place.
Take the story of Jephthah for example (Judges 11). He leads God’s people into battle against an enemy and makes a promise to God in doing so: “You let me win this battle and I’ll sacrifice the first thing that comes out of my house when I get home.”
Now sacrifices were pretty custom for the time. He was most likely trying to one-up a normal sacrifice to honor God for a victory. Rather than just sacrifice any given farm animal, he would sacrifice one of great meaning to him—like a dog or a cat—something from inside the house.
But if you know the story, what comes out of the house is not a dog or a cat—it’s his daughter. His only child comes bursting out the front door dancing with tambourines in hand. She’s celebrating her father’s victory, for he has won the battle.
This of course is where most of us say, “Oh, sorry God, you know that’s not what I meant.” But in this case bad theology leads to a stupid God-dishonoring decision.
Jephthah must have looked at the world around him and saw false gods like Molech (whom people sacrificed their children to by burning them) and thought to himself, I will have to make the same great child sacrifice to my God—DESPITE the fact that His God HATES child sacrifice and expressly forbids it (Deut 12:31; 18:9-12)!
But when experience is your theology…
And so Jephthah holds a bad promise higher than his God. He exalts bad theology and apparently doesn’t even ask a priest somewhere about God’s laws on the matter.
Run child, get far away from here—for your father’s bad theology is out to kill you. He’s bowed down before Molech without even noticing it.
Of course, if you know the story, she doesn’t run away. For she too has bought into this idea that it would be honorable and pleasing for her to be sacrificed, despite the fact that God illustrated with Abraham that He is a different from the false gods and would never have anyone follow through on this custom (Gen 22).
Bad theology is dangerous. And it still kills, even today.