This post comes to you in two parts. I’ve given a more general part first, and then, I’ve put up a series of longer technical clarifications to the distinctives I lay out here. That way, if you don’t want to mess with the technical stuff, just don’t read the follow up. If you are interested, though, click the hyperlinks (highlighted in red) throughout the post, or just read through and then click to see each of the other more technical posts.
The Non-Technical Post
In my first post I had mentioned that this project had its primary focus and audience in the Church. By that, I meant the worshiping community of believers in Christ who come together in order to glorify God, which means, for the most part, those who are not academic theologians, the “laity.” This post will address the other two aspects I want to give as part of an introductory orientation: the Background, and the rest of the focus.
First the background. Like any project of this sort, no one comes to it with a genuinely “blank slate.” Even though we can’t avoid being influenced by our experience, we can identify where the potential for influence is and so hope to be a little more honest in our approach. For me, I can identify about three distinct influences that are particularly relevant to this project, which I can identify with three stages of my life.
Perhaps the most unsurprising influence, and most lasting, is my upbringing. I was brought up in a fairly traditional Southern Baptist and evangelical background. In large part I’ve stayed mostly true to this. I am still an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and I’ve grown to embrace my baptist heritage more than I thought I would, helped in large part by my attendance at baptist liberal arts college. My identity as an evangelical has also been reaffirmed throughout my life, and I have consistently placed myself within the company of other evangelicals; for more on what I mean by evangelical and baptist see the “Technical section” by clicking the links.
The second major factor in my theological heritage is a “reformed” and interdenominational perspective. Now, let me be clear: I do NOT mean a Calvinist perspective. Unfortunately the term has been co-opted to a very specific form of the Reformation. Let me also be clear, “reformed” in the broad sense I am using it is not exclusive to Protestants. Instead, by “reformed” I mean that perspective that is informed by the historical figures related to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. While this includes figures like John Calvin and Thomas Cramner, it also includes, perhaps more fundamentally, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and even Counter-Reformation figures like John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, but more on how exactly I nuance this is also given in the “technical” section. My interdenominationalism has, to some extent, long been part of my history. While I certainly hold to certain Baptist preferences, some of these, in particular the idea of freedom of conscience, have led me to embrace a strong sense of the Church beyond my particular denomination. Much, but by no means all, of this has been informed by my time earning an MDiv degree at Beeson Divinity School. For a good example of doing interdenominational work in the Baptist tradition check out my friend Steve Harmon, whom I met in our joint time at Beeson, over at his blog, Ecclesial Theology.
The third major factor is fairly recent, and is largely informed by my present time here in London and at King’s College London. Being in the most urban setting I have ever lived, and in perhaps one of the more secularized, can certainly impact one’s vision of the church: reinforcing some aspects, like interdenominational and evangelical sensibilities, while reminding one of the importance of more everyday and non-“churchy” language (this post excepting). At King’s College London, the current theological project is something called Transformation Theology. While I am certainly sympathetic to the project, and even think that it asks and tries to answer a lot of the right questions in what I think is mostly the right way, I have certain misgivings about the project. I do not entirely agree with some of the underlying assumptions behind it, again more specifics below, but do view it as a generally positive movement in theology. Therefore it might be best to say that I am doing theology in dialogue with Transformation Theology, but ultimately as one slightly outside of it. (Again for more detail see the technical post).
Now that my background has been addressed, I can begin to very briefly address the focus of this project. Of course the focus is primarily upon God and, as was discussed last time, upon His Church which exists as the Bride of Christ. Within that I want to bring a way of doing a theology blog that is maybe a little different. While certain aspects will approach the theology blog in a style that is fairly typical, such as addressing specific doctrines or ideas as well as current events, I wanted to bring some more interaction into it. This is where I need the help of those of you reading. I want the direction of this blog to be largely shaped by where the readers are. I don’t want this to be a theology to the Church, but a theology for and with the Church. Thus, I will try to keep my language mostly non-technical in the posts, but I also want to know where you are at. What questions do you want to see addressed? What topics interest you? Do you agree or disagree with things I say? Leave comments and hopefully, after some time, the posts will be heavily driven by the comments thus creating a type of partnership in this theological project between me and the readers. With that in mind, before I get to the technical part, let me ask you this question:
What do you think is the most important issue facing the Church right now? Please leave a comment below. Hopefully I’ll be able to address some of that in my next post. If you can’t think of what that might be, then let’s make it more personal. What is the biggest issue or question you face, as a Christian RIGHT NOW? Be as specific and personal as you like.