Monday, January 27, 2014

Theology, closing thoughts

Before we begin a new series, I wanted to offer some clarifications on the Theology series we began in October. 


First, a friend and colleague [Jason, from School of Fish] reminded me that when speaking of God’s transcendence, it is not enough to say that God is separate, because of His holiness, from His creation.  Nor is it enough to hold this superiority in conjunction with his immanence to creation.  We must also assert that God is sovereign over creation.  As Creator and Sustainer, God is at once superior over, near to, and exercising supreme authority over creation at all times.   This is a more fully orbed approach to God’s transcendence.  

Jesus and Theology:

Second, I mentioned in the introduction that I would return to the claim that Jesus didn’t spend that much time on Theology, so we shouldn’t either.  It can be reasonably argued that everything Jesus did was a lesson in theology, for He came to be the visible image of the invisible God.  Jesus didn’t merely teach theology, He was theology.  His sermon on the mount reveals the nature of the kingdom of God, and defines what characterizes the lives of citizens of this kingdom.  These statements have great implications regarding the nature and character of the King.  Jesus spent a considerable amount of time correcting the errant theology of the first century Palestinian religious leaders; as well as commending that of the Gentiles of that time (to include, but not limited to: a Roman soldier, a Syro-Phoenician woman, a woman at Jacob’s well).   The gospels are filled with Jesus teaching His disciples who God was/is; and so He taught theology throughout His ministry here on earth.    

So What?:

Finally, some closing thoughts on why theology is important.  If you recall (if you don’t, go here), I challenged you to examine the statement of faith of the church you attend.  And I gave the following as an example:

“Consider for a moment a church that in their statement of faith says:

We believe that the gifts of evangelist, pastor and teacher are for the perfecting of the saints today to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up. God supernaturally and graciously grants spiritual gifts to every believer for the purpose of serving the body of Christ.[1]

Sounds good.  Lines up with scripture.  Gives each member of the church a view of communal service and a hope that he or she may be used by God for His works.  Now, what if that church does not allow women to teach, nor to administer communion or collect offering or pray in public?  Does this practice align with their stated belief?  Or, are they contradicting themselves with the subtle belief that the gifts God gives to women are not for the full body of Christ?”         

Unfortunately, this particular church, which the Officer and I attended for a few weeks during our “church shopping” excursions in the weeks after moving to the mountains, lived out the latter.  Though their statement of faith says that “God supernaturally and graciously grants spiritual gifts to every believer for the purpose of serving the body of Christ,” their practice of this statement showed they believe only men to be worthy of the communal expression of this gifting.  Further, the surrounding lines of this tenet states,

 We believe that the gifts of evangelist, pastor and teacher are for the perfecting of the saints today to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up.  God supernaturally and graciously grants spiritual gifts to every believer for the purpose of serving the body of Christ. The miraculous gifts of healing, signs and wonders, tongues and interpretation of tongues, during the apostolic era, were for the purpose of authenticating the apostle’s message. (These miraculous gifts gradually diminished as the New Testament Scriptures were completed and the authority of the scriptures became established. **) In accord with His will, we believe that God does hear and answer the prayer of faith for the sick and afflicted. [emphasis mine]
Thus, not only do they eliminate women from the expression of God-given spiritual gifts for the edification of the body, they have in effect placed the Holy Spirit in a box – telling Him what gifts He may or may not bestow (and of course, upon whom He may bestow them).  Granted, the double asterisk indicates that this particular church leadership does not see this tenet as “essential to the faith,” though every person interested in membership must “must respect and teach the entire doctrinal statement.”[2]   So even if you don’t agree with it, you’d better tow the party line.   

 Except that, I can’t find anywhere in scripture that even alludes to a diminishing and then disappearance of the miraculous gifts.  Or that these gifts were given only to authenticate apostolic messages.  Further, if these gifts were intended (and may we reflect just a moment on the audacious assumption that we can fully know God’s intention?) to authenticate the Gospel, would they not be needed even more today when 2,000 years have passed and cultures have changed?  What do we do with this statement in light of stories of the miraculous coming from our fellow believers in different contexts?  Do we, as the Pharisees did, claim that these miracles are being performed by the power of Satan and His minions?  What does that say about the rest of the scriptures penned during the formative years of the Church?  Does this mean that we can twist and selectively pull out the uncomfortable parts of scripture to better suit our cultural experiences? 

            Or do we have to deal with the entirety of Scripture? 
            Even the parts we don’t like, or don’t have experience with? 

Thus, dear ones, I confess: the Officer and I didn’t find this church a “good fit.”  I realize this can sound so consumerist.  But I had to ask: do I want my children growing up thinking that God’s Holy Spirit will only do what we can understand, in ways that we expect? 

                Or do I want them to know the God who is untamable and surprising and miraculous, too? 

Do I want my daughter to lean over and ask me why only the men get to pray, or offer communion, or read; so that when I can offer no good reason, she eventually learns by rote that she is somehow less

                Or do I want her to know that women sat at Jesus’ feet, learning alongside the men; that women were the first to proclaim the risen Lord; that a woman was the first mortal to know that the Messiah was come? 

And, of course, do I not want my son to see women serving alongside the men so that he learns that the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of both sexes, that Christ came to redeem and restore all, even intra-sex relationships between men and women?  

Dearest reader, this is why theology is so important.  Because it affects the very air we breathe.  It inhabits our bones and sinew.  Our theology becomes us, defines us, motivates us.    

Thus we must agree that while Jesus came for the ultimate purpose of our salvation, He also came to be a living example of theology, to teach us what to think about God.  And so theology is something we must not neglect.  So I encourage you again, spend time looking over your church’s statement of faith.  Hold these tenets up to the Scriptures to ensure that they agree.  And then watch how these tenets are lived out, remembering that not a one of us is perfect and so require grace, to ensure that the theology you’re ingesting is the one that points you and all those to whom you are to minister to the One, True God.    

[1] Accessed 1/27/14 at 16:44 MST
[2] Accessed 1/27/14 at 16:44MST

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