Transactional theology

By Dave Henning / November 24, 2023

“Dare we hinge our belief on God’s response to our prayers?  A working term for this might be transactional theology.  Transactional theology presupposes that we meet God on equal terms.  He’s got what I want.  I know what he wants.  So we reach an agreement. . . .  Really?  On what basis do we negotiate with God? – Max Lucado (emphasis author’s)

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey I am taking . . . then the LORD will be my God . . .”- Genesis 28:20-21 (NIV)

In Chapter 4 (“No Quid Pro Quo”) of God Never Gives Up on You, Max Lucado relates a one-sided arrangement he once made with God.  Basically, Max reasoned, if I sacrifice and relocate my family to Brazil to do mission work. God will heal my dad of ALS.

However, Pastor Lucado’s arrangement existed only in his imagination.  In addition, the pact bore only one signature -Max’s.  Certainly, it wasn’t God’s.  Furthermore, like Max, Jacob suffered from the same misconception about God.  Most significantly, Pastor Lucado notes, any awe Jacob felt after his dream quickly evaporated.  Because he began to negotiate with God.

As a result, Jacob haggled.  Rather than show a grateful spirit for receiving God’s blessing.  Instead, Jacob played bargain hunter.  Also, he hammered out the key points of a contract.  His belief in God contingent upon God’s protection of him.

Writing in The Knowledge of the Holy (1961), A. W. Tozer explained this human tendency:

“Left to ourselves, we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.  We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him.  We want a God we can in some measure control.”

Therefore, Pastor Lucado strongly cautions, we border on heresy anytime we suggest that we control spiritual dividends from God.  Consequently, we exchange a transcendent God to whom we’re accountable for a dependent God who must account to us.  Above all, this transactional faith results in disillusionment.

Today’s question: Do you ever catch yourself applying transactional theology?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A flea market view of God”

About the author

Dave Henning

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