Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Theology Matters

Theology has a bad name in certain quarters. Clergy and laity alike often think of theologians as ivory tower academics with little or no experience of or commitment to the Church. That is unfortunate because theology matters. Although how we think about God is not as important as our faith in God, our willingness to trust God, it does matter. Over the nearly forty years as a person in holy orders, I have a met a number of people who think of God as a stern judge waiting to squash them if they were to step out of line. Thinking about God in that way tended to make them fearful and rule bound, unwilling, to use Luther's phrase, to risk sinning boldly. It also tended to make them judgmental of others, bolstering their own fragile sense of self-worth with the idea that, as bad as they were, there were others, even in their own circle of friends and acquaintances, who were much worse sinners.

We need a revival of theological thinking in the Church, not just in theological schools, but in our congregations. Given how shamefully we have treated the environment and how uneasy many of us are about our own creatureliness, we need to rethink our understanding of the doctrine of creation and of our responsibility as stewards. We need to rethink our understanding of the Atonement, saving it, if you will, from presenting a picture of an angry Father demanding the death of his loving Son. And we need to rethink our understanding of the Church itself, leaving behind both a life boat understanding of it and all of the trappings of establishment and seeing it again, or for the first time, as a community of disciples sharing God's love with the world.

Theology matters, perhaps now more than ever as the Church comes to grips with the end of Christianity's de factoestablishment in North America. We need to learn, perhaps from our Jewish neighbors, what it means to live as diaspora communities of faith, embracing our new minority status as a gift that frees us to engage more freely and fully in God's mission in the world.

1 comment:

Small Farmer in The City said...

Perhaps the other thing we need to learn from our Jewish neighbors is recognizing theology is midrash, not reality, and that we might do better asking who is Jesus rather than how to play games with Bible and use it to smite our neighbors?