Freedom and Fellowship, Chapter 1: A Case for Theology (part 2)

We might be comfortable with the use of theology to inform how we live our daily lives, but, when we’re honest, calling our daily “God reflections” theology seems to lower the standard a bit. Theology should not be such a casual affair, a project which even remotely suggests whimsy. Theology is special and revered, not to be taken lightly, and should not be able to be reduced to the everyday living of our lives. Theology is for special times, intentional times. Theology is to be holy and set apart, able to judge the rest of life with a cool objectivity and indifference.

We often find the lack of an exhaustive posture unnerving when we consider the work of theology. We like our theology to be our rule and our guide, and to suggest that it is anything other is insulting. As such, we cannot bear to attached the proper name of “Theology” to anything that has not overturned all rocks or asked all questions. We like our theology to be multiple volumes and perfected. We like it to be cross referenced and precise to a disturbing degree. Frankly, we would be more comfortable to distinguish between “works of theology” and “Theology.”

We also consider theology to be important enough to be done with the long view in mind. If we are going to spend time saying something about God shouldn’t it be something that applies to everyone everywhere? Why should we waste our time unless that is our aim. We like to think of theology as something universal, and the notion that theology is for the purposes of particular times and particular places seems to many of us to be patently absurd.

We also dislike the idea that what we are doing in these particular times and places is merely using the “stuff” of the Christian faith to interpret our experience. Yes, we appreciate that one should know the different pieces and parts well. We like the idea of an engaged relationship with the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, but to suggest that those are just fodder for the fun game of “Figure Out How the World Works” is an insult. We do not (or should not) use theology as a tool to gain clarity – theology is what brings the clarity. We do not use theology to construct the lens through which we see the world – theology is the lens.

No, we do not like any of these ways of thinking for they change what theology is. If these ways of thinking are allowed to stand, theology becomes a creative, expansive, and expressive project rather than one which seeks to preserve the stability of the Christian sub-culture.

I want to submit that, rather than view theology as a set of boundaries which we dare not cross, we should view it as a “malleable idiom one lives within” which results in “surprise, or the possibility of the unforeseen.” (Carter, J. Kameron, “Esperanza Spalding: For My Money, 2010s Musician of the Year (And Why Theologians Need to Pay Attention)”, In other words, I would like us to consider that theology is at its best when viewed as a creative, artistic pursuit open to any and all, rather than as a corpus of data to be memorized, collated and organized for the purpose of allowing some to (even if unintentionally) control others.

Theology is not law. Theology is art. To proceed otherwise removes any potency theology ever had.

3 thoughts on “Freedom and Fellowship, Chapter 1: A Case for Theology (part 2)”

  1. Hey Landon,
    I’m enjoying the book so far! In the opening paragraph you speak of theology as needing to be separate of the everyday. I’ll feel the need to disagree with you on this point. As you have written,
    ” Theology is special and revered, not to be taken lightly, and should not be able to be reduced to the everyday living of our lives. Theology is for special times, intentional times.”
    I would offer an alternative. What about elevating our everyday to the realm of the holy? In the tradition of the monastic, infusing our everyday actions with God. To see every motion, movement, the daily routine done with the desire to have God present with us.
    Also when we word that theology is not for everyday do we set up the idea that theology is removed from those who cannot reach beyond the everyday? Those who have not been educated in theology.
    Or denied exposure by circumstances.
    I do agree that theology brought to an everyday level of being used as a tool or worse an excuse, is to be avoided. And should be taught as such. But I feel we lose to much open, common ground when we make our theology apart from the daily. I love the statement that theology is not law! That it should be a growing, evolving, expressive experience. And I feel that can be accomplished with the Spirit moving in my everyday.
    Anyway brother, just a few thoughts. Keep working, it’s good! Peace,John

    1. What you have done is shown me where my writing is not communicating clearly. I actually mean to say precisely what you are saying.

      I was trying to “take on the voice” of one who would be opposed to my proposal and offer their counterpoint. When I read through it the other day (as I was loading this section into the blog) I wondered if the way I had written it was going to be confusing. Your response has made clear that confusion is exactly what has resulted.

      Thanks for test driving the material and offering the feedback. I’ll make sure and rework the text.

  2. Your intent to embody the voice of another was right on the money.
    And I had considered that might be your aim. But my response to the material could not find a definite landmark for that. So, I trust in the process and report honestly with what I felt. It’s powerful writing and definitely evokes response. Keep going!

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