Spit-Can Theology

When I was in the Ranger Battalion many years ago, one of the favorite pranks my fellow rangers pulled on their buddies — done during our evening pizza parties — was replacing someone’s open Coke can with a Coke can filled with tobacco spit. (The guys used empty Coke cans for spittoons.) This deception was easy to pull off. The can was exactly the same, the temperature was the same (we had no fridges), and the weight was similar. The joke wasn’t funny for everyone, though. Trust me, few things are as nasty as taking a swig of tobacco spit. If you can picture the concept of keeping the same can but switching the contents, perhaps you can see where I am going with the concept of spit-can theology.

The fact is, men often undertake a similar swap in the church. They take theological terms that are vital to the salvation message — like grace, faith, repentance, law, or legalism — and replace the biblical content with their own antinomian (easy-believe) content. They offer us grace without sanctification (Tit. 2:11-12), faith without obedience (Rom. 1:5), a gospel without repentance, and salvation without discipleship.  On the basis of this spit-can theology, they promise men freedom (2 Pet. 2:19-20), assuring them that if they return to — or never leave — their vomit and their hog trough (2 Pet. 2:22), they have nothing to worry about, for they are saved by grace, not law.  And this spit-can theology deceives many for they defend it with a very savvy selection of prooftexts.

At this point my illustration partially breaks down. Nobody ever took a second drink of tobacco spit from a Coke can. But people are often addicted to  theological spit-can errors on their first swig, despite the fact that the content is nastier than tobacco spit.  And it is not hard to see why. The errors taste good.  They tickle men’s ears and tell them what they want to hear.  This makes it very difficult to correct these errors. Men don’t like to be told that what they are drinking is harmful to their health — especially when it tastes good.

But correction on vital gospel matters is our bounden duty. All around us professing Christians are drinking theological tobacco spit that tastes good, spit which they confuse with the biblical teaching. We need to encourage them to candidly pursue faithfulness to the Bible on the core teachings of salvation. This is not optional. May we ever bear in mind that error is never neutral. It  always robs men of blessings that God intended for them to enjoy.  And errors on the doctrines of salvation are capable of robbing men of eternal life. Let us never forget the gut-wrenching warning, “In that day many shall say to me, Lord, Lord…and I shall say to them, depart from me you workers of iniquity (you drinkers of theological dip spit ), I never knew you,” (Matt. 7:21-23).

“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”

Lee W. Brainard

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