Home > Uncategorized > Who I really disagree with

Who I really disagree with

It has come to my attention that my last post, which was written far too early in the morning for intelligent thought, can be misunderstood in a number of ways.

First of all, who am I really criticizing?  I am not criticizing those who love philosophy or the social sciences.  In fact, while I have little to no interest in these fields I have no problem with those who do.  I also do not blame either philosophy or the social sciences their theological influence.  Who I am criticizing are the theologians and pastors who have allowed the social sciences and philosophy to have an undue amount of influence on their teaching and practice.  They have allowed the social sciences and philosophy to lay the ground rules for what theology can and cannot do.  For example, most modern Pastoral Care texts are really introductions to psychology.  While psychology is certainly important for pastoral work, after all you have to know how people tick, to allow psychology to control pastoral care to the extent that it has, where most pastoral care books turn Jesus into a placebo in the attempt to help people look within to fix their problems is a theological disaster.  For contemporary “Pastoral Theology” God has little interest in day to day lives, and the true power to fix problems lies within ourselves.  Again, I am not denying that a knowledge of family and systems theory, Myers-Briggs, etc are not helpful (and often incredibly helpful) in Pastoral work, but when theologians allow psychology to set the agenda, rather than supplement, you end up with improperly trained pastors trying to be psychologists giving bad self help.  

Second, who gets to be a theologian?  Well, everyone is a theologian.  In fact, if you’ve ever even thought about God you’re a theologian.  But specifically, who gets to do Christian theology?  One can only do Christian theology is one publicly consider themselves to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and takes an active part in the life of the Christian community.  I do believe church attendance is important, as the concept of being a “go it alone solo Christian” is an oxymoron.  The Christian church from the beginning has been a community and despite the church’s many many failings, it remains the body of Christ here on earth and it is the primary worshipping community.  Worship is an integral part of “doing theology”, because when theology really wrestles with the mystery of what God has done in the world and how God has spoken, one should be left with a sense of awe and wonder at certain points when the language changes from that of rational explanation to the language of adoration and praise at God’s awesomeness.  Theology that seeks to avoid the language of worship (such as the 4 Spiritual Laws and Westminster Calvinism) turns the Christian faith into a set of propositional beliefs that must be believed in order to be saved.  I’ve just finished a reading of the book of Acts that wasn’t how it was done.  Peter and Paul brought people to faith by telling the story of what God had done in the world, and what God had done in Jesus Christ.  When one reads the works of Karl Barth, my favorite theologian, it is not full of propositional truths, but rather he winds and weaves his way through the entire bible, drawing on the ways in which God has spoken and acted in the world.  Rather than reducing God to something that can be understood, Barth’s theology seeks to expound on what God has said and done.  The true task of theology is not to simply and explain God, but rather to present to story of what God has said and done in the world in contemporary language.  This task too often falls only to academic theologians working in our seminaries rather than our pastors and church members which, if you have suggestions about how to facilitate such discussion, please let me know.

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