Good Theology, Bad Application

I've been reading through the book of Job recently. Something strikes me about Job's friends.

If you're at all familiar with the story of Job, you're probably familiar with his "friends" Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who fit firmly in the "With Friends Like These Who Needs Enemies?" category. These guys are convinced that Job has sinned and that Job's troubles are God's discipline. So, they do what any good "friend" does when you're suffering: launch into long sermons giving you a well-thought-out rationale for why you're suffering.

What's amazing as you read these guys, however, is that their mini-sermons almost all begin with extremely good theology. They accurately portray God's sovereignty, holiness, power, and inability to make mistakes. The problem is with their application of good theology.

We normally read the story of Job to learn how to suffer well from Job's example. But a lot of us (myself included) could stand to read the story of Job to learn the danger of really good theology misapplied.

We're clear on God's sovereignty, and use it for an excuse to be passive in evangelism.

We're clear on God's omnipotence, and use it for an excuse to neglect needs we could meet.

We're clear on God's immanence (nearness), and use it for an excuse to treat Him casually, as if He were our "homeboy."

We're clear on God's grace, and use it as license to sin.

We're clear on God's holiness, and use it as an excuse to be mean.

When good theology is applied badly, it can be just as damaging as if we led with bad theology in the first place.