Every Christian is a theologian. A theologian is someone with competency in the field of theology—the study of God and the teachings of Scripture. Although some Christians have gotten the idea that being a theologian is a bad thing—some seem to think it is a member of a professional class of academics who question the authority of God’s Word—all believers should commit themselves to knowing the Bible. We’ve got plenty of examples in the New Testament, which includes the apostles who quoted the Hebrew Bible frequently as well as the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).
The New Testament expects believers to wrestle with profound truths. The apostle Paul assumed the Corinthians would mature beyond a simple understanding of spiritual matters (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). He also stressed the importance of spiritual maturity to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:11-16). Peter told his readers to long for spiritual milk but also indicated that they needed to “grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). The writer of Hebrews mentioned the need to advance beyond elementary doctrines (Hebrews 6:1).
Simply put, every Christian should be a scholar of God’s Word. This is especially important when we examine the matter of celebrity theologians, who are anything but biblical experts.
In March 2021, CNN host Don Lemon appeared as a guest on the television show “The View.” When asked about a recent statement against same-sex marriage issued by the Vatican, he had this to say:
I respect people’s right to believe in whatever they want to believe in their God. But if you believe in something that hurts another person or that does not give someone the same rights or freedoms, not necessarily under the constitution because this is under God, I think that’s wrong. And I think that the Catholic Church and many other churches really need to re-examine themselves and their teachings because that is not what God is about.
God is not about hindering people or even judging people. And to put it in the context of race, I find that, you know, Dr. Luther King Jr. said the most segregated place on earth was 11:00 AM on a Sunday morning. So I think that religion and the pew keeps us from actually, they’re barriers from people actually getting to know each other.
So I would say to the pope in the Vatican and all Christians or Catholics or whomever, whatever religion you happen to belong to out there, go out and meet people and try to understand people and do what the Bible and what Jesus actually said, if you believe in Jesus, and that is to love your fellow man and judge not lest ye be not judged. So, instead of having the pew hinder you, having the church hinder you, instead of being segregated in the church or among yourselves, go out and have a barbeque and meet people, and start breaking bread with people, and getting to know them.
Lemon is no stranger to bad theology. In July 2020, he stated, “Jesus Christ, admittedly, was not perfect when he was here on earth” (contra Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22; 1 John 3:5). He isn’t alone. In April 2019, Alyssa Milano Quoted John 3:12 to support her defense of abortion. In lyrics to one of his songs, Kanye West said, “My Jesus likes sex, so he didn’t die a virgin.” We could cite examples that would number into the dozens, if not the hundreds, especially if we include talk show hosts like Bill Maher who routinely misread the text.
Christians should immediately perk up when they hear falsehoods promoted by celebrity theologians. They’re not a terribly creative lot, so they have several features in common. We can see three of them in Lemon’s interview.
- They typically misuse or misquote the Bible. Not only did Lemon misuse Matthew 7:1, but he also misquoted it. It almost takes work to get something that wrong. Examples of misuse are typically followed by lectures about how most Christians have misunderstood the verses in question and how they need to read their Bibles more (as President Barak Obama said after infamously mangling the text in a 2006 speech).
- They make bad analogies which sometimes lead to politically correct posturing. Advocates have tried to hitch the homosexual bandwagon to the civil rights movement for years (the non-religious have done the same thing with atheism, although not all atheists agree with this tactic). Lemon does much the same here, which effectively repudiates biblical authority and replaces it with social consciousness. Although Scripture clearly states that all people are equal (Galatians 3:26-29), it does not legitimize homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10).
- They are the architects of their worldview, not God. They abuse Scripture to make it look like God gives his approval to their personal choices. Citing passages from the Bible creates a spiritual veneer for a worldview that is fundamentally human-centered (proof-texting is king for bad theology). Lemon believes that a barbeque will solve racism and homophobia; in reality, applying God’s Word as it was intended will not only solve every human ill but reconcile humanity with its Creator.
Christians have to be mindful of celebrity theologians. They’re even worse than celebrity politicians. The difference is that instead of lecturing their opponents about politics, they’re misrepresenting the Bible, insulting the God who authored it, and paving the way for others’ spiritual downfall.