Next week my 6 week summer course “Theology of Culture” starts. i thought that i might post a brief sketch of my initial thoughts on this subject:
- Theology (understanding of God) that is interpreted solely through our experience (like the special interest groups), inevitably falls prey to the minimalizing God, making an idol in our own image. Christians must resist merely capitulating to the culture around them.
- That said, there is no theology that can completely avoid this “contextualization of God.” The gift (or curse if you prefer) of postmodern theory, and the emerging church, is the insight that we are born, eat, sleep, breathe, and live within a multitude of complexs (world, country, state, town, son, daughter, dad, country club, denomination, etc), all of which to varying degrees influence us to the point that they help shape all of our views of reality, for better or worse. None of us, regardless of our exegetical skill, can stand outside ourselves and know everything 100% accurately. All our theologies are partially our own little buffet lines, where we tend emphasis or downplay sections of the faith to our tastes.
- That said, our environment does not determine us to the point where we can’t change. I can’t follow the pomos that far. The fact that they were able to realize pt #2 above proves that we can partially step outside our interpretative lens. From a Chrstian persepctive, there is a second solution, a better one; Someone can intervene, step into our world, and refashion our interpretative grid for us.
- This brings me to what i think the thesis of my professor will be: Jesus Christ, is our best launching pad for understanding both God, ourselves, and our world as speaks about it. This is b/c he was (and is still) fully God and fully man, and thus is authoritative in all respects.
- One further point of clarification. What i’m saying doesn’t amount to a return to simply appealing to “just be biblical.” I think that point 2 above is accurate. When i speak of Jesus Christ as the center, i’m not referring to just a person that is contained solely within a set of texts, a mere abstraction. I’m thinking that our theology must be relationally grounded in the Christ who lived the life proclaimed in Scripture but also is risen, alive, and who may have some words for us today. How we can have a relational center, moving away from modernity’s preoccupation with “timeless principles,” and still live God-honoring lives (eg engage culture) is the task that i suspect will continue to engage biblical scholars and theologians for quite awhile, maybe even after i’m dead.
I’m hopeful that this class will help me sort through these issues more deeply.