Cat and Dog Theology

This new theology, if you can call it that, is described here, here and here.  It’s also here, a June 22, 2003 sermon, “It’s All About Him,” which sounds very like a sermon we heard in church once.

Cat and Dog Theology is tied in with the above described supremacy of God doctrine.

Yes, we need to focus on God and loving others, not on making ourselves happy and getting all the blessings for ourselves.

Yes, it is true that the Church has been riddled with materialistic error and the concept that God is some sort of cosmic slot machine, giving us wealth, a beloved, a great job, etc. (as long as we remember to tithe that 10%).

Yes, it is dangerous to think that we can expect a life of ease, when our forebears were tortured and martyred for the faith (and many still are in other countries).

Yes, it is dangerous to think that we don’t need to struggle to become more like Christ.  Many down through the ages have deliberately chosen poverty and other difficulties to become closer to Christ.

Yes, it is true that American worship is becoming more and more man-centered all the time, bringing in various forms of music and praise choruses to make us “feel” closer to God, to make us raise our hands, dumbing down the message so it becomes more like a self-help seminar or something to make us feel good, assaulting our senses with multimedia as if we were being entertained by a movie or concert rather than worshipping at church.

On these issues, I wholeheartedly agree with Cat and Dog Theology.

But when I read the “It’s All About Him” sermon, it scared me.

Now I recognize very Calvinist doctrines running throughout this sermon: Some people are born to be killed for God’s glory?  “What if God wants to sell you into slavery so He can position you for His glory, like Joseph?”  What??!!!  (God did not sell Joseph into slavery; Joseph’s brothers did that.)

Other teachings I’ve heard along this line include, we should pray for other people (dog) and not for ourselves (cat).

But Christ specifically tells us to bring our requests to God, and that we do not have because we do not ask!  He is a loving Father who will not give us a stone if we ask for bread.

Sure, we should pray for other people, and more than we pray for ourselves.  But it is not a “cat” thing to ask for our own needs as well.  (Needs, not wants.)

One Sunday, I could swear the pastor told us we shouldn’t grieve or question when a loved one dies, because we don’t know God’s purposes.  I could swear he told us that even praying for that person to be healed was a “cat” thing.

But the Orthodox tradition affirms that death is a tragedy and we should feel free to grieve, not make glib comments like, “God had a purpose in [your loved one’s name]’s death.”  Christ came to conquer death; death is the enemy!

Some passages from this sermon:

In 1 Chronicles 21 Satan prompted King David to count his fighting men.  The Lord wasn’t pleased for He wanted the glory for giving military victories.

But David swelled with pride, in himself, his country, and his men and took the glory of God.  So it was the Lord, not Satan, who sent a plague and killed 70,000 of David’s chosen men, military leaders and believers from the nation Israel.

Let’s listen in on the conversation these men might have had with God.

Men: Lord, why did you bring us all home at once?  We weren’t even fighting a war.

Lord: David sinned.

Men: What?  David sinned and we were all punished for his sin?

Lord: I don’t see bringing you home into my presence as punishment but that’s what I did.

[Note from me: In those days they would have gone to Sheol, or Hades, the land of the dead, of shadows, of nothingness–NOT God’s presence–because Christ had not yet gone down into Hades and defeated death.]

Men: Oh Lord, we’re sorry.  You’re wonderful.  but why didn’t you take him home?

Lord: Because I had a greater plan for his life.

Men: What about our lives?

Lord: I had a plan for your lives as well.

Men: Well, what was it?

Lord: To die when David sinned, and to serve to bring about his repentance.

Men: But Lord, that just doesn’t seem fair.

Lord: Well, I have never run My kingdom based on fairness, I run it for my glory.

[Note from me: What about justice and mercy?  What about people being judged only for their own sins, not someone else’s?  This “theology” sounds more like heresy than Orthodox doctrine!]

God uses all nations, both good and bad, for His purposes.  When God wanted to take the gospel message past Jerusalem He persecuted his people in that city to spread them throughout the Roman Empire.

When He wanted to extend the gospel message past the Empire He sacked Rome with barbaric tribes from the north that scattered Christians from Ireland to China.

What does that say for America?  Can you think for a more historically accurate, God-honoring way to take the gospel to the Muslim world than to scatter the church, perhaps even the American church?  After all, it’s not about America.  It’s All About Him.

…Let’s ask some questions: Did God love the first nine generations [of Israelites living as slaves in Egypt] as well as the tenth one He freed?  (Absolutely)

Did God have a plan for their lives?  (Definitely)

What was God’s plan for their lives?  (To be born a slave, to live as a slave, and to die a slave.)

Why?

Because God used their captivity to teach future generations to be kind to people from other countries.  Because It’s All About Him….

Would you be willing to be a slave for the glory of God?  What if God wants to sell you into slavery so He can position you for His glory, like Joseph?

…Suppose it is God’s will that you be stoned to death like Stephen?

…As a woman would you be willing to live in southern Sudan, to be raped, mutilated, homeless and hungry if your being on the front lines of spiritual war brought great glory to God?

This website critiques Cat and Dog theology, based on a report given to the author by a reader whose church taught C&D Theology.  The author writes:

Value of mankind:

1-“God is not fair”

We were given examples of three people who served God, yet had different outcomes. Thereby, we conclude that God is not/does not have to be “fair”. “You have no right to ask, ‘Is it fair?'”

Nothing was mentioned about justice. Or just trusting that God sees the bigger plan for our lives.

We should not question when life is taken. We should not grieve when a child is taken.

2-We were told not to seek the glory of the “winner’s circle” by seeking to be like the Bible heroes (of faith). Rather, we were told that we should identify with the lesser characters of the Bible.

The two examples given were of nameless people who died. We were told that they died in order that God might be glorified. (Not true.)

Ex. -1) Job’s children. This story was told as if Job’s children went to heaven and had a conversation with God. (This seemed to be a deliberate but subtle denial of hell.)

Ex. -2) David and the 70,000 who died as a result of his sin and his choice of judgment on his people.

What is missing here is this: If bringing glory to Gods name is so paramount in his theology, then the greatest glory to God that we could possibly affect would be that of seeking to be like none other than Jesus Christ.

This “option” was totally omitted as was the fact that Hebrews 11 sets before us a whole list of “winners” as examples of people to emulate in order to bring the greatest glory to God. He equates these men and women of faith to being “the winner’s circle”.

This is a distortion. They simply walked in faith and obedience to God, enduring hardship and seldom seeing the promise fulfilled.

Now, in our Evangelical-Free church, for possibly two years and in every sermon, we heard that God’s predominant passion is His own glory.  That makes it hard to tell where “Cat and Dog Theology” ended and basic Supremacy of God doctrine began.  So I’m not entirely sure if the following two points came from Cat and Dog Theology.

But our pastor told us 1) Even if God didn’t have all these attributes–love, compassion, caring, blessing us, etc.–we should still glorify Him because He is God.  2) Even if we didn’t sin, Christ still would have died on the Cross because it was for God’s glory.

In answer to 1: If God didn’t have all these attributes, He would become like ancient pagan deities who didn’t care at all about mankind–deities who required sacrifice so we wouldn’t be punished, deities who barely thought about humans and just used them as occasional playthings.  Why would we care to worship and glorify such a deity?

In answer to 2:

According to Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor and other Greek Fathers, the Incarnation would have taken place even if Adam and Eve had never sinned. Isaac the Syrian held the same view, as did later Syriac writers.

The purpose of the Incarnation was to achieve intimate union between God and humanity. This is salvation, the fullest expression of love.

God’s plan was for the two to become one and form a New Humanity (confer Eph 2:15 read in light of Eph 4:13 & I Cor 15:45 53).

In contrast to this is the Latin tradition, at least the part that prevailed. During the Easter Liturgy in the Roman Church, the Exultet is sung. The following is an excerpt: “O Happy Fault, O necessary sin of Adam which gained for us so great a Redeemer.”

According to the Latin mindset, there never would have been an Incarnation unless Adam and Eve had sinned.

The Eastern tradition finds this line of thinking totally offensive and in fact, several Popes had condemned it as well.

Nevertheless, ever since the split between East and West, this section of the Exultet stands as part of the Roman liturgy. There is a Latin saying “lex orandi, lex credendi,” “The rule of prayer is the rule of faith.” The liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church reflects its theology.

From the Eastern perspective, God’s desire and reason for the Incarnation was loving intimacy, not punishment for sin. The Sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, while foreknown by God, was not the primary motivation for the Incarnation.

The East accentuates God’s mercy over God’s justice; the West is vice versa. –Dr. Daniel F. Stramara, Theme 8–Soteriology

So on the Latin side, if man had never sinned, there never would have been an Incarnation.  On the Greek side, if man had never sinned, there would still have been an Incarnation because of God’s desire for union with us.  So either way, what the pastor said was just plain incorrect.

Week after week after week, the pastor made God sound more self-centered and less like a loving Father; my husband felt like just a tool being used for God’s purposes, not someone God cared about as a person.

After all, if God wanted to kill you for His own glory, who were you to complain that wasn’t fair?

And yet the pastor wondered why we didn’t consider this a wonderful theology that made us more in love with God.

We watched in disbelief as other members of the church embraced it and began teaching it to others.  Even now, members from that church propagate this doctrine, and Cat and Dog Theology has become quite popular in the American Church.

This “theology” is the product of modern American Protestantism mixed with Calvinism, not the theology of the ancient Church.

To summarize, God created us for communion.  He wanted someone to bless.

Christ came not just to die for us, but to reconcile us to God and lead us to communion–not for God’s glory, but for communion!

We are not saved from Hell for service, but saved from our sins so we can commune with God!

We do good works for others because Christ told us to and it’s the sign of true faith and love, not because we’re a “dog” or a “cat.”  (See above, and see page 3 for lots of stuff about sin, salvation, Hell, etc.)

Cat and Dog Theology said we are supposed to hunger for God’s glory; in Orthodoxy, we are to hunger for God Himself.  As we come together as a congregation to worship God, and sing praises and glory to Him (since this is a good and worthy thing to do), our worship culminates in the Eucharist.

Our hunger and thirst for God is satisfied as we take His body and blood into our bodies in an intimate union which has even been compared to a man and his wife becoming one.

Out of this pours our honor, glory and praise to God, and we desire to become more and more like Him and help others to do the same.

So just because we do not focus on glory above everything else, hardly means that we are “cats.”  But so much of what I have heard and read from Reformed sources makes it sound like we are robbing God of His glory if we do not focus on His glory above all else.

Also, Cat and Dog Theology says “everyday life was designed to be one big worship service” and goes on to ask, What does God get when you hug a child, see a sunset, listen to music, eat a chocolate covered strawberry, etc. etc.

However, this is not what worship is all about.  Such experiences can show us God exists, and it is good to remember all of it is possible because of God’s goodness.

But worship “reflects the fullness of Truth,” “strives to make holy,” and all

flows from the one, essential act of worship and thanksgiving, the ‘common union’ with the Trinity and with God’s people into which the ‘community’ enters through the reception of Holy ‘Communion’. …’Enjoyment’ is not a goal in worship. —Orthodox Worship vs. Contemporary Worship

Another deficiency, a common problem, is that I read so much in the Cat and Dog writings and other Protestant writings about God, which makes God sound like one Person who is God-centered.

In Orthodoxy, God is more commonly referred to as the Trinity and “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Yes, Protestants are usually Trinitarian, but in common speech, oftentimes Christ and the Spirit seem more like subordinates, while the Father is God.  One important note–which some proponents of Cat and Dog theology may be fully aware of, but can be missed by those in the pews–is that the Persons are equal to each other and each are God.  Instead of seeking what’s best for Himself, each member of the Trinity loves the other two completely and seeks to glorify them.

This is demonstrated by the Trinity icon, in which the three members of the Trinity sit around a table in perfect love and communion, their heads bent toward each other.  See here.  Looked at in this way, God is not self-seeking or self-loving, but loves and seeks what is best for the other, just as we are to do.

Oddly enough, this Cat and Dog “theology,” first heard of in the Evangelical Free Church, is part of the reason why I began the path toward Orthodoxy.  It was a long and twisted path, full of error, but led me to seek what was for God rather than just for myself.

Still, as I’ve noted above, this theology is flawed.  Cat and Dog Theology says that “dogs” hunger for God’s glory while “cats” hunger for the blessings; Orthodox theology says that we should hunger for GOD–and this hunger is satisfied in the Eucharist, which is Christ’s body and blood.

Cat and Dog Theology focuses our attention on God’s glory (as in, reputation); Orthodox theology focuses our attention on God Himself.

Cat and Dog Theology says that Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we might point to God and glorify Him; Orthodox theology focuses on the love of God in reconciling us to Him, showing us how to live, and bringing the suffering souls out of Hades so they could commune with Him forever.

Cat and Dog Theology focuses on God’s reputation (glory); Orthodox theology longs for the wondrously beautiful manifestation of God’s energies (glory).

Cat and Dog Theology makes life’s unfairness sound deliberately caused directly by God; Orthodox theology realizes that the Devil is our enemy and the source of all evil, that we ourselves cause our own troubles (such as Hell, which we cause ourselves by rejecting the love of God).

Cat and Dog Theology focuses on the lack of praise of God in Hell; Orthodox theology focuses on the suffering people will endure because they have rejected the love of God and cannot get away from it.

Cat and Dog Theology would essentially call Orthodox theology “me-centered cat thinking” because it focuses on our becoming like Christ and acquiring the Holy Spirit.  Yet Orthodox theology is the most ancient, while Calvinism is only about 500 years old!

See for some good old-fashioned deep theology that does not come from 500-year-old Calvinism: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

Written between late 2004 and probably late 2006/early 2007

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

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