Theology As a Way of Living (#487)

beachwalkIs theology a static list of facts that seek to capture God in a box, or is it a wilder conversation about his wonder and mystery as we are learning to walk with him through our lives? Wayne and Sara are back from a brief time at the beach to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. With that backdrop and his recent visit with pastors in Southern California about the Dones, he continues last week's theme of Why Theology Matters by responding to listener comments and emails. Many see theology as a dead set of concepts, rather than a living conversation that helps shape how we live in him and navigate the rigors of this age. Wayne reframes his appreciation of theology as the conversation with the church through the ages that helps us not just know things about him, but to know him and to follow him more accurately.

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  1. Generally comments that I have here fall into two categories: comments based directly on thoughts/ideas expressed in the podcast, and thoughts/ideas that I have as I am listening to the podcast. This time, my comments fall into the latter category.

    A thought hit me at during a point at the podcast, about the ‘dones’ and if the motive is truly desiring a deeper relationship with God, or merely doing one’s own thing. It was from one of the ‘God Journey’ openings when Brad stated that this is not about him, it is about God, that he is just a supporting actor.

    It really got me to thinking and examining myself, was there something about ‘Church’ that I was avoiding because it hit too close to home, or was it truly like many of the valid reasons that have been discussed here over the years? I’ve sat through much teaching of false theology/doctrine, pleas for significant financial contributions for bigger buildings and the like, there was really nothing close to resembling authentic relationship. I can only assume it was God that drew me out. But, in my darker moments, I think of the times I was/am selfish, self-indulgent, sinking in sin (weeeeeeee!!!!) and considering, it was not God, it was me, I was just tired of the constant self-examination that was not only seemingly getting me nowhere, but making me extremely uncomfortable.

    I can’t say I have a clear answer yet. I do know God does have a hold of me. I can’t say I am at the point like the analogy you had, Wayne, when you described your wife dancing with the dance instructor, her simply letting go and letting him lead so the dancing looked effortless for both. Hopefully in time.

  2. Ron, I really appreciated your comments. On this journey (based in a strict Presbyterian “system”) I’ve seen the “grey” areas. Jesus is indeed able to meet ppl in the midst of tremendous pressure and religous obligation…(He is not intimidated or “frightened” of ppls fears and pressures). Although my mind can think through these wonderful liberating truths (also like the dance analogy) it’s taking longer to work it’s way into my “heart experience”. I appreciate that you have said “hopefully in time”…once again I’m reminded that I’m not alone or going through some strange learning. Blessings

  3. I just wanted to pick up the conversation around the issue of theology.

    I think that often times theology has been used by institutions to validate their control of people in their congregations. So for me, and I must confess I love chatting theology, I have found that as I have taken responsibility for my own theology, i.e. trying to articulate my own reading of scripture and thoughts of God, it has helped me to process what was actually just organisational control systems and what Jesus means when he talks about his “Body”.

    I have seen so many people leave the institution and throw out Jesus too, because they had simply accepted the theology of the institution as if it has been Jesus own. For me one of the most wonderful things was listening to Wayne’s teaching on the cross in his transition series. Before that I had never entertained another view of the cross as being “correct” but since then I have seen that there is a deep mystery and deep adventure in the cross that I am the richer for pursuing.

    I do think that what has changed for me is that instead of trying to get my head to inform my heart and to take external truth and try and ingest it to internalise it, I have begun to allow my heart to be captured by his heart and to allow my heart to inform my head. To allow the Holy Spirit to win and internalise the truth in me and then going on an adventure with the Trinity on how to externalise that, to live it out, to participate in the new creation.

    In the end if theology doesn’t start in the heart, it won’t be living. And if it’s goal is not to be more loving, to set people free and to lift shame off of them, then it isn’t of much use.

    • Justin,
      I too have a bitter taste in my mouth from theology. My pursuit of “understanding all things god” drove me inward instead of outward. I never had time for family or friends because I was always reading and studying to understand god thinking this would please him. When his love finally caught my attention, I was forced to reevaluate everything about life especially the epistemology of knowing him. I, too, have concluded that the heart is the sensory organ to his revelation. The conundrum we all face is that to even discuss the epistemology of the heart the mind comes into play. This is where it gets tricky. For the heart understands things free from the influence of paradigm; whereas, the mind (even when categorizing and compartmentalizing what the heart comes to know) filters all impulses through our worldview.
      What love has done to me (as far as I can process it) is allow my heart to govern my head. Love has allowed me to associate with and not separate from those who hold different theologies than myself. Theology is no longer the canon I use to determine someone’s walk with god. In the past, this only led to disassociation and pride. I don’t try to “fix” others anymore but trust love to fix us all in the end. For the heart understands love even when the mind has trouble putting it into words. We have been taught to not trust our hearts, and I think this is the “Fall of man.”

  4. Kent and Justin, I think what you’re both struggling with is the abuse of theology. I agree that for most people theology is a dirty word, used to divide us instead of let us celebrate our common love for the Father who has invited us into his rich life. Theology lives and breathes in love because it has more to do with what we can celebrate about God than it does with nailing him inside a box we can control or define. When it leads to disassociation and pride, it is at it’s worse. When it leads us to love, even beyond or differences, it is the conversation that is most engaging.

  5. Hey Wayne, I don’t consider the fact of theology bad (personally, I love to talk theology), but the conversation I would like to see is, “where does God knowing start…in the heart or in the head?” I would suggest the heart as the seat of truth because this is the touch point between man and god’s spirit of love. Also, I believe (I realize I am using my mind to decipher what I believe the spirit is saying to my heart) that the mind is so controlled by worldview that it can only interpret things (circumstances/bible/et al) through the matrix of my personal paradigm. Even the spirit’s nudgings within one’s heart are interpreted through worldview. It’s not that we have to get it right mentally as long as one’s heart is in touch with god’s spirit of love…the heart is where communion with god occurs. So, to me, to say that we have to at least have a basic understanding of theology makes no sense. How basic? Who’s understanding (seems to me christians can’t even agree on what is the gospel)? Which Jesus (different views of him depending on how one interprets the gospels).
    I cannot speak for Justin, but I think we are both saying that revelation starts in the heart and the mind is changed as a result. Today’s christianity seems to have it backward…fill your mind with god-stuff and let that change your heart.

  6. In regards to which comes first…the heart or the mind,I was reminded of “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”passage in Romans (12?). I always interpreted that process as change beginning in the thought processes. Ie when we reprogram our thinking,our mind, and bring it in to comformity with the mind of Christ , eventually behavior follows suit. Behavior eventually influences the feelings and emotions completing not only a transformation of the individual, but resulting in more of the Father showing through our lives. So if that application is true it would indicate that the process of seeking intimacy with God begins in the mind and eventually works its way to the heart. I am certainly not trying to proof text and build a doctrine here based on one verse but it is a thought provoking concept. Perhaps one day Wayne will do a podcast exploring that topic. But of course only if he follows his heart ! 🙂

  7. Hey Kent and Wayne,

    Yeah I am also not dissing theology. I would also like to add to the conversation that “no theology” or where people don’t think at all is very dangerous too. I teach at a Christian school where theology is a dirty word in favour of practising our faith in meaningful ways and yet the people with organisation power and authority often abuse their fellow brothers and sisters.

    I think we all agree that good theology is life giving, freedom giving, shame removing and loving.

    Thanks for these podcasts on theology as I want to see people develop a healthy life-giving theology that is lived out lovingly and graciously.

    blessing to all you guys

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