Archives For theology

Why We Need Everyday Theology

Chris —  September 4, 2012

In the Middle Ages, Theology was named “Queen of the Sciences.”  It was a noble idea, that the study of God is the greatest of all studies.  The problem is, this puts theology on a pedestal far away from where we live our lives.

I think that this problem is painfully apparent in our modern life.  These days we’re convinced life can be boiled down to information to be quantified and experiences to be bought and sold.  That is, until we are stuck alone in a quiet room with our own thoughts, or tragedy shakes us from our futile busyness.


What if placing theology on a pedestal actually killed it?  Being a queen means no longer walking among the base.  Maybe the reason “men lead lives of quiet desperation” is that we can an find no depth, or purpose in our day to day.

Everyday Theology isn’t that different from what Jesus did when he strode through the streets of ancient Palestine.  He took God from heaven to earth.  A theology modeled after Jesus will take our ideas God and eternity and push them through the sieve of daily life.

My friend John Chandler has organized a get together of compadres from Ecclesia Network, Missio Alliance and a few “off the map” communities of Jesus people from around Texas.  Dr. Roger Olson, of Truett Theological Seminary and the Missio Alliance, will kick things off. He will be followed by 13 practitioners, from 13 different church communities, telling their stories of how theology shapes our activities and our thinking, not just on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday as well.

I’m thrilled that John’s going to let me help MC, and that we’re hosting at my home away from home Space12.

I hope you can join us.

Discipleship…but to What End?

Chris —  April 24, 2012

The last major portion [of Jesus vision for discipleship] deals with diakonia (Matthew 25:31-36).

The image is one of stewards reporting to their master.  In their role as servants, Jesus does not speak of disciples being judged on the basis of good conduct, sacrifices, religious life, liturgy, theology or racial makeup. As servants they are judged by what they did or did not do for those in their world who were obviously in need. They are judged on the basis of their diakonia as servants of the Master who gave his life as a ransom for many.  This gives us a concrete meaning of the new commandment “love one another”–the supreme test of discipleship.

Charles van Engen, God’s Missionary People.

Read as part of the MAGL.

“In Judaism, there is a distinct activity called kavanah. It is cultivated in order to maximize the inwardness of our actions. It means to pay attention, to direct the mind and heart in order to maximize the levels of intentionality in our actions. This applies to actions/deeds as it does to the study of Scripture and to prayer but goes beyond these activities themselves to the notion of attentiveness to God Himself.

It is not primarily an awareness of being commanded by God, but an awareness of the God who commands. The focus in kavanah shifts from the deed itself to its inner meaning, the goal being to find access to the sacred in the deed itself. It is finding the essence of the task, to partake of its inspiration, to be made equal to the task of fulfilling holy command’s. Abraham Heschel says that ‘kavanah is direction to God and requires the involvement and redirection of the whole person. It is the act of bringing together the scattered forces of the self; it means the participation of heart and soul, not only of will and mind.'”

Frost and Hirsch Shaping of Things to Come (in print and digital.)

God on Monday

Every once and awhile I hear people complaining about the lousy christian music that they were force fed when they were kids.  I smile and nod, but honestly I don’t really have any idea what they were talking about.  The tribe of churches I came from were skeptical of anything from other tribes, so we shunned the books, movies and music that was being peddled by evangelicalism.  We had our way of doing things, and much of our energy was spent justifying ourselves…to ourselves.  In other words, we were an echo chamber.

The danger of an echo chamber is that the only voice you hear is your own.  The inevitability of the political echo chamber began with cable TV and exploded with the internet.  Now, you can completely cater your media experience to consist only of things that you already agree with.  You’ve met people who only listen to radio, read blogs, and communicate with others who share their politics.  Some days, all I want is to hear a few jokes from John Stewart, a story from Ira Glass and an episode of Doctor Who.  The internet makes this customization not only possible, but normal.

I find this sad.  I’m a full believer in a classic “liberal arts” education. I believe that, even if I don’t like it, having an understanding of algebra, art history and biology will make us better human beings.  It breaks my heart to meet someone who doesn’t know what Tale of Two Cities or a quadratic equation is.

When it comes to theology, an echo chamber isn’t just sad, it’s dangerous. A key tennant of the Christian faith, which the western church struggles to articulate, is that everything we believe is rooted in mystery.  We believe in a God-Man and a wind-like Spirit and a living lifestyle rooted in a future we have yet to see.  Everything we do is rooted in mystery.  This is not to say that there are not key, identifiable marks of orthodoxy.  But the fact is there’s a lot we can’t know, and a lot of room to disagree.

Theological echo chambers allow you to create systematic theologies and take them to logical yet dangerous theological and practical extremes.  This creates Reformers  more calvinistic than Calvin, Wesleyans who become universalists and Anabaptist that withdraw to farms where no one can bother them.  Practically, this creates religious arrogance.  The tradition I come from (like many) is often mocked for assuming everyone else is going to hell.  There might be some truth to that.

I believe in humbly seeking to hear from a multiplicity of voices.  This means more than being open to hearing the arguments of the people that you disagree with.  It means finding approaching life with a learning posture, assuming that even those that there are thing you can respect and emulate in everyone. And while you may come away believing what you always have, you’ll know better than ever why you believe it.

Here’s how I practice this:  I attend seminary with people who have some elements of theology I disagree with.  I work with a parachurch organization that trains leaders from a diversity of denominations.  I listen to podcasts from Tim Keller (reformed/presbyterian) and Bruxy Cavey (anabaptist/wesleyan), Catalyst (seeker sensitive/event driven) and Iconocast (Christian anarchist).  Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorites and I definitely have my opinions.  But I’m better off because I learn to love and respect others.

Have you broken out of the echo chamber?  Why or Why not?