I said, “Theology matters because you believe something, and what you believe affects how you live.”
Imagine two people. John is a self-professed person of science who calls himself an atheist. He thinks that Christians are (at best) well-intentioned but delusional (or manipulative monsters, at worst.) Gina is a Christian who believes that God is loving and gracious, and that he has a plan for her life.
Chances are, John and Gina will have very different approaches to life. John may be thoroughly amoral, in a selfish, pseudo-nietzschean kind of way.
Or John may be extremely moral, and live his life by a strict moral code. In Crimes and Misdemeanors, Woody Allen’s character is discussing what he thinks is a hypothetical situation where a man has gotten away with murder. “In the absence of God, … he has to assume that responsibility [for atoning for his crime, balancing the moral equation] himself.”
A moral atheist, or an amoral atheist: either one can happen.
In either case, what John thinks about the God he doesn’t believe in shapes his values and actions. God’s absence releases him to live in the reptilian, or it forces him to step up and be responsible for his own moral universe.
And Gina may live a virtuous life on the basis of her faith, doing her best to serve and love people and “do the right thing.” Or she may think that God’s forgiveness means that she can live any way she wants, without fear of consequences, and do things that John would never do.
In the second scenario, I would say that Gina has horribly misunderstood what being a Christian is about; it’s NOT a “Get out of Hell free” card, and she’s treating it like one.
But again, and in both scenarios, what she thinks about God and who she understands herself to be in relation to him is the basis for her values and actions.
(PLS note: I have decided to publish three times per week, rather than four or five. The next post will be published on Monday.)