Thursday, September 17, 2009

Theology Thursday~ Why Theology, Part 4: Theology Must Be God Centered, but Other Oriented

Jesus gave an excellent admonition when he said: “Shema! Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all of your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37)

Theology begins with the command of The Shema. The way in which Jesus’ version of the Shema commands us to love God is nothing if it is not Unmitigated Awe. One cannot gain wise knowledge of The Almighty without this kind of awe. (Proverbs 9:10, and Psalm 111:10)

“Shema!”- is a command to sit quietly in His presence and listen with all that we are; our journey is sustained through holistic interaction with God (all our parts interacting with all of His) and its natural outcome is twofold: a more intimate understanding of God, and the ability to love others with God-mediated love.

When viewed through the lens of The Shema, theology begins to look very different.

We know the word “theology” means the 'study of God.' The Shema gives us clarification to understand that theology begins with loving God with all that we are. When we do so with all of our parts (heart, soul, mind and strength), we develop an understanding (‘theology’ if you will) that is awe-filled, love-inspired, balanced, and has the capacity to be love-mediated towards others. It is only in giving of our minds to God through the Spirit that this kind of transformation can occur, for we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). That is not to say that beginning our theology in this manner will lead to a perfect understanding of God. No, “perfect” is unattainable on this side of the veil. However, we can be sure that the awe of God is definitely the beginning of wisdom-a very good start.

Ephesians 1:15-19 is a prayer from the Apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus. The prayer gives us a good look at the origins of theology, how a good theology is nurtured, and the fiduciary duties of those who are “enlightened” towards the “not yet enlightened.” In stark contrast to the usual pre-conceived perception of the theologian-novice relationship, Paul’s attitude and approach toward the unlearned at Ephesus is accepting at the outset and shows compassion and concern for the “un-enlightened other.”

Ephesians 1:15-19 (Contemporary English Version)
15I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God's people.
16So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers.
17I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit.
The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God.
18My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand
the hope that was given to you when God chose you.
Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God's people.
19I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us, His followers...

 Theology should begin with faith, which itself originates from God, himself. (v. 15) (Notice Paul does not say: “knowledge about Jesus…” but “faith in the Lord Jesus…”)

 Theology should be spurred on by companions who are both grateful and prayerful for the other. (v. 16)

 Theological mentoring should always involve a significant amount of prayer for the other. (vs. 16, 17, 18)

 Theology isn’t a purely intellectual endeavor. It requires intervention from the Holy Spirit, and the resultant wisdom then allows for a prayer-generated, supernatural, and “enlightened understanding.” (v. 17)

 This enlightenment also renders an ability to understand our eschatological hope and to discover our Christian inheritance. (v. 18)

 Theological education/mentoring should always be about a heartfelt desire for the other to “know about God’s power” on a personal and communal level (“for us”) (v. 19a)

If theologians actually looked at and approached theology in this light, would polemic and arrogant attitudes exist and abound? Would there be the “incessant quarreling and cold indifference between God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians” that Olson speaks of? (Olson, p. 26) And, if shown this passage, how would our collectively-tentative-Christian brethren feel about theology? Would they still be convinced (as Olson astutely asserts) that: “…theology and doctrine are detrimental to Christianity”? (Olson, p.26).

I posit that if we truly understood that theology was a God-initiated enlightenment that was mainly about understanding hope; and that the pursuit of theology is a developmental task that can only (at best) give us a partial view through a dirty window of The Creator; and that theology starts with loving God with all of our hearts, souls minds and strength, and humbly listening for Him to reveal himself- then ‘arrogant’ would be the last word people would use to describe theologians.

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