God-Centered vs. Man-Centered Theology
“Biblical Faith exists only in the presence of Biblical Truth”
© 2000 Timothy Wallace.  All Rights Reserved.

E veryone has a theology,” it has been said.  Though few of us are theologians by vocation, each of us (even the atheist) has his or her “theology.”  What matters ultimately is not whether we have a perspective on who God is, His nature and character qualities, and His relationship to man, but what kind of perspective we have.  What’s its basis?  Human will or divine revelation?  The reliability of one’s theology—both in general and in every detail—determines how well it measures up to reality.  In the end one can expect little enduring benefit (and possibly some serious loss) from living with a theology, any part of which is faulty or contrived, though it may have “seemed right” for a time.

The table below contrasts some of the fundamental differences between God-centered and man-centered theology.  It is my conviction that the attributes listed on the God-centered side are much more fully biblical, and therefore much more in line with God’s will for an obedient Christian life.  The man-centered side reflects many popular, but unbiblical, perspectives and attitudes that have crept into Christian thinking (particularly in the Western “evangelical” community) and have received far too much toleration than could ever be wise or spiritually healthy for the church of Jesus Christ.

A God-Centered Theology...
A Man-Centered Theology...
...magnifies the Giver of every gift (including life itself), aiming ever better to both know Him and make Him known. ...magnifies the gift and the recipient’s possession and enjoyment of the gift, often forgetting the Giver altogether.
...sees the purpose of all creation (including one’s self) as chiefly for God’s pleasure, and humbly gives thanks with some measure of joy, whatever the circumstance. ...sees the purpose of creation as largely for man’s pleasure, and so often assumes some measure of perceived entitlement or “right” to some quality or possession in life.
...yields humble gratitude for God’s sovereign and gracious salvation (and every other ounce of grace poured out on one). ...retains for one’s self some measure of prideful self-congratulation (however well-hidden) for one’s role in appropriating that salvation.
...sees salvation in Christ entirely as the gift of God, through faith, which itself is entirely a gift of God — not a reward for good works; the Christian is the humble recipient of something which could never have been earned. ...presumes to have done (or to be doing) some work either adding to or accomplishing the salvation offered by God in Christ, unwilling to surrender the unbiblical notion that works somehow merit the favor of God.
...sees one’s own good deeds as an expression of eager and overflowing gratitude for the kindness of God. ...sees one’s good deeds as a dutiful effort to please God and earn favor or respect from God (and/or men).
...is motivated in evangelism chiefly by a heartfelt, irresistible desire to proclaim the greatness of God to others, a divinely inspired love for the lost, and a humble (if not fearful) sense of obedience. ...adds to these (again) some measure of prideful self-congratulation (however well-hidden) for doing works for God.
...places the cross ever before one’s eyes. ...tends to put the cross behind one.
...aims to retain the recognition that one is a vile wretch apart from God’s goodness and so yields humble thanksgiving for God’s mercy and grace. ...renders some measure of priority to nurturing one’s self-esteem, self-image, and personal worth.
...hates sin because it goes against the very nature and character of God and His standard. ...is more preoccupied with what apparent human loss any given sin inflicts, and so is more vulnerable to relativism.
...aims to subject all thought, emotion and desire to the truth of God’s Word. ...tends to assign legitimacy to—and justify—selected thinking, feelings and intentions, in spite of any evident conflict with the God’s Word.

— Tim Wallace         

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