The Problem of Theological Fanboys


I am part of several online discussion groups, most of which pertain to theological topics. If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you might be part of one, too. While online theological discussions can sometimes be productive, more often it is the opposite. I think there are several reasons for this, but one of the most prominent is what I call the "theological fanboy (or fangirl)." Simply put, far too many individuals who participate in these forums are not articulating the views that they have developed after careful study of the topic. Instead, far too many simply parrot what their favorite theologian, pastor, and/or biblical scholar has said on the topic. Don't get me wrong: It is better to understand one perspective on a theological issue than to understand none of the perspectives on the issue. The issue arises, however, when we don't really understand what a person is teaching, yet we parrot the point anyway. 

So, in short, a theological fanboy is someone who simply repeats what their theological idol says, with little to no reflection on what it means. In the eyes of a theological fanboy, their theological idol can say no wrong and, in some cases, even do no wrong. In this post, I will look at why this is a problem, and what we could do to fix it.

An Example

One example of theological fanboyism  is a recent discussion that has taken place in one theology group of which I am a part.1 In this group, there has been quite the discussion on the topic of the biblical definition of marriage. One individual, in particular, has argued that the Bible endorses polygamy because it records several leaders of Israel, such as Jacob, David, and Solomon, as having multiple wives each. "If," the argument goes, "we are told to imitate their faith, and they had multiple wives, then God must have given his blessing for polygamy." This is almost immediately followed by individuals who will simply praise this argument, unaware of its flaws. It is not logically sound. If this argument were applied to the life of this individual, this individual would be found to endorse things that he never intended to endorse in the first place! The point that I am trying to make is that, while the argument he makes is incredibly flawed, those who parrot his position, and those who praise this individual for being so bold as to make this claim rarely, if ever, acknowledge the flaws in the argument. And herein lies the problem.

The fact of the matter is that many prominent theological figures have their own base of fanboys. This is likely not intentional in most cases, but it is a fact. John MacArthur has his own base of theological fanboys. James White has his own base of theological fanboys. William Lane Craig has his own base of theological fanboys. Thomas Jay Oord has his own base of theological fanboys. Joel Osteen has his own base of theological fanboys. Craig Groeschel has his own base of theological fanboys. The same could be said for countless others, but I think that you get the point. Almost every prominent pastor and theologian has his or her own base of theological fanboys. The problem with this is that, when we simply parrot what other people say, we do not really grow in our theological understanding. 

The epidemic of theological fanboys seems to indict us for our lack of growth in our understanding of God. Of course, it is easier not to do the research yourself, to not do the exegesis yourself, and to simply take someone's word for it. However, none of this contributes to growth in our knowledge of God. And this is going to cause deeper problems down the road if it is not corrected.

A Solution?

What I am about to propose is not a permanent solution, but it is a step in the right direction. I think the solution to theological fanboyism is to recognize that even the best biblical scholar and theologian gets things wrong. That includes all theological idols, including yours. In addition to this, it is important that we look at the ideas being presented, and allow them to sink or swim on their own merit. In other words, we should look primarily at the merit of the argument itself. The person presenting the argument should be of secondary importance. When we begin to practice this, I think we will see a greater ability to communicate with one another in these forums, rather than tear one another down.


In conclusion, I want us to recognize that theological fanboyism is an issue in theological debate. If you argue your position on the basis of who proposed the idea, rather than asking yourself whether this idea is biblically and theologically sound, then I would encourage you to stop looking at theological idols and start looking at the merit of the doctrines/arguments/theological stances themselves.


1 The name of the group, as well as the names of participants, are withheld here. The group is a private theology group, and I would like to be respectful of that fact.


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