Sunday, August 01, 2010

Theology is a Practical Road Map

These days we hear an awful lot about "new ways of being church." After 2000 years, you would think that the history shelves might be the best place to explore those new ways before foisting them on us pewsitters.

Some of those "new ways" that we in T.E.C. have been exploring were addressed by St. Paul in todays reading: Colossians 3:1-11,
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).

On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Sounds a lot like the right way of "being Church" doesn't it? But it sounds so old fashioned. Hasn't theology found a way more in keeping with modern lifestyles?

The C.S. Lewis Institute sends me periodic e-mails. The July Update contained this pearl (for the complete text click here).
"In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Touchstone), pp.135-137

Lewis writes about personal religious experience being an inadequate guide for a Christian life. Many of us have been blessed with deeply spiritual experiences. If these experiences were all that I had to go on, I would be lost. Every seeker needs a road map in order to reach their final destination.

As far as life goes, there is but one end. For the Christian, that destination is so wonderful that the Narrow Way (Matthew 7:13-14) is a perfectly fine road to travel. As we encounter new side roads along the way, with their promises of new sights and adventures, and their ability to bypass all those traffic jams caused by issues, we have the road map of theology to keep us headed in the right direction. For there is but one right direction and a whole lot of wrong ones. Theology has studied most of the wrong ways. Theology serves as a handy field supplement to your Bible's road map when you encounter what appear to be novel side roads.

There is an old saying that goes,
"Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment."

So tap into Theology (link to Alister McGrath's text) the next time you see a new road sign tempting you to take a side trip along the Way.


  1. [For there is but one right direction and a whole lot of wrong ones./]

    Tell that to the PB.

  2. Your highlighted quote is indeed spot-on. Of course, the reason for that woeful state of affairs is the abysmal lack of education about the theological/doctrinal struggles which have occurred throughout Church history. As a consequence, the rank and file are not capable of judging when an old heresy is simply dressed up in the current styles.


  3. John,

    I think the PB would say that there are but many right directions and on wrong one...yours!

  4. R. Sherman,

    I suspect the heresies are being taught but in a new light.

    Halogen perhaps?

    Halogenism might be a good name for the "New Thang." I think I just coined it.

    Hey, it did not turn up on my Google search! Eureka I did it!