November 5, 2008

Advent Talk

Like many important efforts dependent on clear thinking and hard work, "theology" has lately suffered a bum rap at the hands of those who assume it is the sole purview of brainy elites. (A colleague of mine landed in a new church. About the previous preacher one member gushed: “He was very smart. I couldn’t understand most of what he said.”) This is distressing for those of us invested in “equipping the saints” for thinking and living the faith.

Theos = “God.” Logi = “word, speech, utterance.”

Put them together and you get God-talk, God-speech. Add “Christian” as a sacred prefix, and suddenly the church finds itself in a living God-conversation anchored in the life and witness of the scandalous New Testament Jesus. Good theology (talk) requires a brain, but loses its necessary humility if it becomes brainy. It can get along better when propelled by intelligence, but wisdom is the more necessary ingredient. It is aided by the professionals who write and publish, but their work never supersedes ours.

Good Christian theology is the primary responsibility of the same inimitable congregations wherein that faith is first lived. Like politics, it is a local affair. Theos-speech is that daring act of discussing within our ranks what the astonishing life Jesus just might have to do with our own. Together we steward a strange and wonderful story about a baby precariously born to peasant parents, tendered in a feeding trough while visited by curious herders, and promised for generations as the agent of God’s new life for the world.

Now there’s a matter up for God-discussion.

Good theology asks: What does this tale have to do with our own?