Nevertheless, I bring this up, because this represents something else that I would like to address further at the blog here; in the days to come, that is. I want to evaluate, deconstruct and then constructively engage the ethos & pathos, church-culturally, that could prompt a statement like my brother made; i.e. that he basically avoids theology. I am an American Evangelical, and I live smack dab in the middle of American Evangelicalism sub-culturally. The sentiment voiced by my brother is ubiquitous and pervasive within this sub-culture; an anti-intellectual (but what I will be calling an 'anti-theo-logical') perspective. I want to deal with the socio-cultural and theological factors that have led American Evangelicals to this rather blighted state. I mean I have already started down that road with that post I once wrote entitled A Critique of the What Would Jesus Do? Society. But I would like to take a longer look at this problem, because it is one that plagues my own theological existence and Christian walk on a day to day basis, really.
I will hopefully be digging a bit further into American Pietism, American Christian Fundamentalism, and also looking at some forms of Medieval Mysticism. And trying to do some landscaping that will help give a better lay of the land in a way that would help explain why a brother of mine at church (representative of thousands and thousands of American Evangelicals) would voice his perception about theology in the way that he did. There is a radical anti-theo-logicalism at work in the higher rankings of leadership in the denomination we are a part of, and this, unfortunately has bled down into their schools of education (ironically), thus affecting many folk's own perception of "doing theology" in our current denominational affiliation (a perception given voice towards me by my brother from church).
So where does this perception of theology come from? The one that would motivate my brother's voice towards it? It comes from, I think, in general, a perception that experience with God involves an unmediated encounter; such that spirituality is contingent upon mystical encounter with a God who is solely apophatic in orientation. It comes from the simple belief that theology, in general, attempts to sequester God, and contain God in human ways; that in the process we lose God, and thus genuine experience of God, and instead replace worship of God with worship of men (like my picture of Calvin here at the blog might suggest to some). The irony of this, though, is that this perception fails to recognize (because even the recognition itself would require the kind of sequestering self-critical postulating that this perception believes is cutting real encounter with God off in the first place) that God has already accommodated himself in gracious movement towards us (which is commonly known as Grace), with the result that God has actually contained and sequestered humanity in himself, for himself, in Christ. So encounter with God is highly kataphatic, highly concrete, and highly particularized (and demystified, by the way) as we move through the mediating humanity of Jesus Christ to God. This is obviously the kind of theology that I advocate for, that we advocate for as Evangelical Calvinists; that is, a 'Christ-conditioned' Trinitarian theology. Encounter with God is what we should all be seeking, but encounter with God cannot be manufactured out of thin-air-experiences; instead they must be grounded in the encounter that God has already freely chosen for himself to have with us in the humanity of Christ.
In the end. There are only two alternatives. Either we try to do 'good theology', or we don't try, and we end up doing bad theology (worse, we end up worshiping ourselves, and the projections of ourselves overlaid onto an un-revealed revelation of God that we think is Jesus Christ pace Feuerbach). At this point, I am afraid that my brother is only doing bad theology, if he has chosen not do theology at all.
PS. A few quick responses to the quip that "one has chosen not to do or think theology" might be:
- Do you read your Bible, believing that God speaks there? Then, you are affirming a theological tradition that asserts the belief that God speaks in and through the witness of Scripture.
- Do you affirm or believe in the doctrine of the Trinity? Then, you are affirming theological grammar (that is 'extra-biblical') that was developed post Apostolic Witness. So you 'do theology then'.
- Do you affirm the full humanity and full deity in the person of Jesus Christ? Then ...
PPS. I want my tone on this to be understood; it is one of concern, and not one of holier-than-thou or smarter-than-thou thinking. I think the LORD has so much for us, and that we can only stop and participate in this (him) as we self-consciously and intentionally stop and think and speak about him in honoring, critical, reflective, and devotional ways. I also think that 'right-doctrine' leads to 'right-practice' (and vice-versa).