On an Emerging Theology

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What I think Emerging Theology must do beyond specific topics is approach it in the way that describes the beautiful and meaningful. What is beautiful and meaningful about our faith? Why do we dance and delight and celebrate? Who is this God who is above all things yet has entered into our world to create and participate?

The problem with much theology is that it has the character of dry, remote philosophy. An Emerging theology, however, should have an aesthetic. It should be a poetry of itself, an elegant description of an elegant, sublime reality.

The earliest theologies had this character, it was descriptive and worship all thrown together, the discussion about God never separated from the devotion to God.

I think the Emerging Theology will have more of the character of the Eastern Church rather than the Western Church. I like how Lossky characterizes this:

The eastern tradition has never made a sharp distinction between mysticism and theology; between personal experience of the divine mysetries and the dogma affirmed by the Church… We must live the dogma expressing a revealed truth, which appears to us as an unfathomable mystery, in such a fashion that instead of assimilating the mystery to our mode of understanding, we should , on the contrary, look for profound change, an inner transformation of spirit, enabling us to experience it mystically. Far from being mutually opposed, theology and mysticism support and complete each other. One is impossible without the other. If the mystical experience is a personal working out of the content of the common faith, theology is an expression, for the profit of all, of that which can be experienced by everyone… There is, therefore, no Christian mysticism without theology; but, above all, there is no theology without mysticism. (Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 8)

The problem with much theology as presently presented is that not only has it not supported mysticism it has intentionally tried to distance itself from mysticism.

Rather than a list of rules, standards, positions and traits an Emerging Theology can and should describe the divine and the divine experience as a poem, as a dance, as a beautiful recitation of our mystical interaction, letting our minds and our souls and the Spirit mingle together in beautiful carefully constructed praise of the God who is and who we have learned him to be.

Of course rigour should not be discarded. It isn’t about rigour, it is about expectation and training. How many graduate degrees in theology have within them a core training in Christian Disciplines? How many theologians are experts also in Christian spirituality? The classics of theology, those many wonderful and grand writers we read from centuries ago were almost always both pastors and thinkers, their thought informing their ministry, their ministry informing their thought, their private spirituality informing their ministry and their thought.

Now we separate these worlds, and insist theology fit into a mold as Philosophy’s lesser cousin.

To blend mysticism and theology is challenging and hard. But it does not mean abandoning the rigour. The idea that distancing is required is a result of centuries of assuming this, insisting there is no room for spirituality in logical thought. But of course there is, and as my Lossky quote suggests it can often result in some of the most rigorous and complex theology.

To be coherent and new and wide reaching Emerging Theology should almost certainly be challenging and difficult. And to be something truly transformative it cannot depend on the same methods or approaches that modernity has taught. Discovering again the different methods will be certainly challenging and require new emphases in training.

If all things stay the same but for different buzz words what will actually emerge from any of this?

–from a couple of comments I made over at opensourcetheology.net, posted here because I think they make for a good post here.

One Response to “On an Emerging Theology”

  1. Pop Says:

    Emerging Theology might be best served by our God, again, teaching us humans about Himself . . . “and He will teach you about all things”. Such is the work of the Spirit of Truth . . pedagogy of the Spirit, . . a mystical thing . . worked out through “fear and trembling” . . a vigorous endeavor.