Today, at a conference I was preaching and teaching at, I met a couple of folks who mentioned the ideas I was floating this past week about rethinking seminary. One of them said they were mulling over the first call for submissions over at Theocademy. I said that I hoped they would be submitting a video lesson, and the response was interesting:
“Absolutely, but when I think about answering the question ‘What is Theology?’ all I can think about is what I read in Shirley Guthrie’s Christian Doctrine. So…”
Whether I’m right or not, what I heard in that response was, “I’m happy and excited to participate, but I’m not sure I have anything earth shatteringly new to say.”
Let’s be clear: That’s perfectly fine.
Most of the work I’ve done in the last several years (as many of you know) has been on the integration of open source theory and the Church. One of the ways I explored this in Open Source Church was to take a look at the foundational principles of Wikipedia. One aspect of those principles has some encouragement for us, I think.
As they construct their articles, the Editors of Wikipedia often remind one another that they are after “verifiability, not truth.” The idea is that they do not pretend to be establishing the “best” or “correct” view, but trying to create a record of verifiable information. Wikipedia explicitly states that they are not a place to post opinions or cutting edge research, but a place to amass the “sum of all human knowledge.” Likewise, the point of Theocademy is not to see if we can develop a new theology from scratch, but to see if we can build a online video archive of theological lessons. That’s a totally different thing.
Don’t get me wrong, if theology is art (as I think it is) then we never know what will happen and someone may show up with something AMAZING. But when we remember that the point is to make what theological expression we already have freely available to those that need it, that seems to take the pressure off.
Theocademy is first and foremost a distribution idea. It is only a content idea, second.
So, if you’re a little nervous about coming up with something brilliant, please stop. Just say the truest thing you know to say, and say it as interestingly as you can. Provide us with resources, and tell us who first said that amazing things you’re saying and then say them to us.
But let’s not get worked up about this. Let’s just do our best to help our friends who want and need the education we’ve been fortunate to already receive.
I have been catching-up with the posts in your blog and have enjoyed them very much. I was particularly moved by the two autobiographical pieces “Of Saviors and Superheroes” and “Scared of the Dark”. They resonate with experiences I also had as a child. I could easily plan/give a class about autobiographical pieces with these using them as examples for my students to write their own. Thanks for that!
I also read, several times actually, the Theoacademy posts. I offer a comparison that came to mind… a relationship between education, formation, mentoring, and sharing.
In my experience, formal education, though absolutely necessary, did not make me a teacher. College education provided the tools, theory, and essentials needed to teach a subject. Teachers, college professors, mentors, and colleagues– the community– provided the know-how, the examples, the mentoring, and the care that formed me as an educator. If I hadn’t seen how theory was translated successfully into the classroom setting, I doubt I would have been able to put it into practice. If my mentors and colleagues wouldn’t have taken the time to instruct me, to struggle with me about a particular topic, show alternate ways of dealing with “stuff”, different ways of seeing something, I’m convinced I wouldn’t have been able to teach at all.
Pastors, congregations, church leaders, and seminaries are very much the same way as described above. The concept of Theoacademy as a means for pastors to educate and share knowledge with other pastors, leaders, or anyone who wishes to learn is very, very good. I understand it as a virtual community: the shared wisdom, teachings, and experiences of people in similar situations/contexts. This can greatly enrich and complement the life and work of the larger community called church. So, I say, “¡pa’lante!” (Spanish for “continue moving forward”, but it sounds so much cooler in Spanish!) 😀
Paz, mi hermano, V.