Theology is Temporary…

Continuing with my study of theology as discussed in the book by Tony Jones entitled The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, here is the quote for this post:

theology is temporary. Since our conceptions of God are shaped locally and in conversation, we must hold them humbly. We must carry our theologies with an open hand, as it were. To assume that our convictions about God are somehow timeless is the deepest arrogance, and it establishes an imperialistic attitude that has a chilling effect on the honest conversation that’s needed for theology to progress…..

[we can’t as some ask to] “sum it up,” and “boil it down” when speaking of God and God’s Kingdom, for it simply can’t be done. The Kingdom of God is expansive, explosive, and un-pin-downable (to coin a phrase). Consequently, our characterizations of God and God’s Kingdom are necessarily fleeting.

For a number of years I read seemingly countless books by today’s theologians and each one seemed convinced that his version of theology came from God and was therefore the only correct one and the only one for the ages. But as Mr. Jones pointed out above this declaration is perhaps the deepest form of arrogance on their part.  When we try to lock down the meaning and lessons of God we are actually declaring that He has nothing more to say about whatever we are discussing.

I can just imagine that many of the big thinkers of Christianity had the same mentality, even the ones who arrogantly claim that the Bible is totally literal and without the possibility of error. Of course one of those theologians was Martin Luther. When he declared “Sola Scriptura”, that is the bible alone is the total and complete word of God he then went on to say except for the Epistles of James (he called that one an epistle of straw) and a few others that he chose to personally exclude. By that very declaration he invalidated the very idea of sola scriptura.  I can’t understand why others have not come out and declared that simple fact about his teachings.  Maybe Luther being the leader of the “reformation” was the “too big to fail” of his times.

The bible and all the subsequent theologians’ views make up a very complex story of God but really hardly touch on the expansiveness of the Kingdom of God. Just when we think we have it nailed down something else pops up in the biblical text, in scientific discoveries, in archeological digs, or maybe from personal revelations that shows us a clearer path.

As Tony Jones say we can’t hermetically seal God’s ever-expanding Kingdom or our experiences and articulations of that Kingdom. They are changing as we mature both in self and in the corporate body of Christ. What we think we know now just maybe discounted by something we learn or finally understand tomorrow. In other words  whether we want to recognize it or not, theology is temporary.

2 thoughts on “Theology is Temporary…

  1. I agree, but with some qualification. As humans, we’re imperfect, and when we face God, I am certain that each and every human being will have misunderstood or misapplied God’s Word and revelation somewhere along the way (so thankful for Grace!). As someone who lives in the world of academic theology, I can also agree that many people are so enveloped in the academic study of theology that they miss out on what God is actually doing in the world. I’m reminded of Revelation 2 and the letter to the church in Ephesus. John praises them for recognizing false teaching and sticking to the truth, but then he tells them they forgot their first love and lost their passion for good works. Orthodoxy is important, but only because orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy. In keeping with that last sentence, I do think theology is important, because our theology drives our actions and attitudes. Even talking about the “Kingdom” reveals an element of our embedded theologies. Many theologies are contextual, and like you said, temporary. But there are some elements of the Christian faith that are right and necessary. That’s why our fathers and mothers in the faith developed creeds (like the Nicene or Apostles’) so that we can know which things are eternal, and which are always open for debate.

    Just came across your blog and I’m enjoying it! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I looked at your profile and am in total agreement that I too look for God’s Kingdom to be fully meshed with this one. Wouldn’t that be something!

    Theology is man’s study of the nature and practice of God so I also agree that it is worthwhile and necessary as long as we don’t deny that it may also be local , temporary, and it just may be wrong. When we start setting one version of theology above all other is where we get into trouble and that regret ably is just what happens in many denominations today.

    Thanks for you words of wisdom. Come back often to keep me on the straight and narrow. We all can use some guidance in our lives.

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