When Your Theology Goes Too Far

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Does this sound like a theologically correct statement?:

“He is the Lord. He will do what He thinks is good” (1 Sam 3:18)

Eli, a priest and judge over Israel, said this after having heard a prophecy given by the Lord to his young protege Samuel. Eli realized God’s sovereign will. And from this statement, it seemed that Eli had a good robust understanding of God’s power over all things, that nothing and no one can stop God’s will, and that no one should (it is good)! In saying this statement about the prophecy, he thought he was submitting himself to God’s will.

The problem is, in 1 Samuel 3, when Eli said (in essence) “let God’s will be done”, he was taking his theology too far, to an extreme.

The prophecy that Eli had called “good” was God’s coming judgment on his own family for their sin toward God. God told young Samuel that he would judge Eli’s “family forever because of the iniquity [Eli] knows about: his sons are defiling the sanctuary” (1 Sam 3:13). Specifically, Eli’s sons had been taking and eating the sacrifices given by the people of Israel (seen in the picture above).

In doing so, they had defiled and made a mockery of God’s temple to such an extent that God decided to not only punish them, but also the entire family for their sinEven Eli was at fault, because instead of rebuking and correcting his sons for their sin, he “honored [his] sons more than [God]” (1 Sam 2:29).

This prophecy should have caused fear, sorrow, and repentance on Eli’s part. But instead, Eli did nothing. And this is where he theology was taken to an extreme. His own understanding of God’s power and sovereignty led him to fatalism and a lack of repentance. Rather than fearing God, and removing himself and his sons from their service as priests, he did absolutely nothing.

While it is true that the Lord does do what is good (even despite our own perception of “good”), this does not mean we have no responsibility! When Jonah prophesied to the Ninevites that God’s judgment was coming for their sin, they mourned for it and repented quickly (Jonah 3). And Jonah 3:10 tells us that because God “saw their actions–that they had turned from their evil ways–…God relented from the disaster He had threatened to do to them. And He did not do it”.

Unfortunately, Eli did not do as the Ninevites did. His theology led him to do nothing, and for that, he died under God’s judgment (1 Sam 4:17-18).

Plain and simple? You know your theology is taken to an extreme when it does not lead you to repentance and obedience toward God.

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