Example of Making Abstract Theology More Earthy

I wrote an article this week on the need to put abstract theology to death, or at least dial it back quite a bit. Take a peek if you can.

I received some pushback on the article, both here at the blog and on Facebook. And I welcome the pushback. It helps refine my own thoughts.

My whole point is that, many times when we talk about theology, it is in very lofty, ethereal and abstract terms. It’s not really practical, human, earthy. This happens when we talk about God, Christ, church, salvation and a host of other theological topics. Continue reading

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Death to Abstract Theology

abstract art.jpg

My wife studied art at university. She knows a bit about abstract art. I know very little. However, I did find this definition concerning abstract art floating around the web waves.

In its purest form in Western art, an abstract art is one without a recognizable subject, one which doesn’t relate to anything external or try to “look like” something.

Ok, but what does all this mean?

As I understand it, when something is abstract it is ethereal. It kind of floats out there in space, in air, but it doesn’t really relate to any concrete reality. I suppose you might say it is thought in it’s purest form. Keeping those ideas as ethereal ideas, but never making them real and tangible in life, to humanity.

And, you know what? That’s how theology works so much of the time.

It’s abstract, ethereal, non-tangible, a kind of heavenly, Casper-the-friendly-ghost ruminating about God and faith. We talk a good game, create great conceptual ideas about God and Christ and the Spirit and salvation and redemption and the church and so much more. All one has to do is crack open a 1000-page systematic theology textbook as an example. But they all end up being abstract, heady, and irrelevant to human life on planet earth.

I would offer that’s not a good thing and that we need our abstract theology to be put to death. Continue reading

The Call for Westerners to Learn from the Majority World

theology in the context of world christianityI’m currently reading a book entitled, Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. To some, it might sound bland. However, for me, it is a topic of utmost import within discussion of theology and church.

Why?

Well it starts in the reality that Christianity is now largest, and strongest, in the majority world (what some might call the “western world” or “developing world”). This is mainly due to the expansive efforts of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement right across Latin America, Africa and Asia. This can be noted from such works as Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement and The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001. There are others as well, but suffice it to say that the Pentecostal, charismatic and neo-charismatic branches of the church have now reached epic proportions, totaling some 600 million Christians in the world today. Continue reading

My Working Thesis on Our Fear of God’s “Earthiness”

earthinessIt’s possible I might have come on to something. A few weeks ago, an idea hit me pretty strongly. It might simply be some bad pizza from the night before, or I might be on to something. So I’m simply using this as a place to think through some thoughts, a kind of journal, if you will.

A few months ago, I had already written on the problem of our fear-driven biblical interpretation. Not healthy fear, as in reverence for the Lord, but a fear that the Bible really doesn’t fit the paradigm for which many of us argue. But I want to talk about another fear.

What’s that fear. I’m calling it the fear of God’s “earthiness”. Continue reading

Semper Reformanda Beyond Morals?

Following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th-century, we evangelicals have been given an important heritage. Many will be aware of the five of sola’s:

  • Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone)
  • Sola fide (by faith alone)
  • Sola gratia (by grace alone)
  • Solo Christos (Christ alone)
  • Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone)

These were, no doubt, important foundation stones in the midst of some rather nasty things taking place in the Roman Catholic Church of the west in those days. Martin Luther also championed a very important phrase, semper reformanda, or in longer fashion, Ecclesia semper reformanda est. This Latin is best translated as, ‘the church must always be reforming.’

That’s our heritage as Protestant-evangelicals, and I recognise it as a very healthy and biblical heritage to pass on to us.

But this would be my bone to pick with some evangelicals.

While, in the vein of our Reformation fathers, we might give lip-service to the ever popular phrase of semper reformanda, I think some might only accept this bedrock of an expression in one important area of our lives rather than two. Continue reading