Yesterday we started across the terrain of theology when we asserted that we ALL do the work of theology. Today I want to talk about HOW we do the work of theology.
Our Wesleyan understanding of theology is that Scripture is the source of our theology, as given in the 66 canonical books of the Old and New Testaments. We use things like the traditions of the church, the God-given faculties of reason, and our experiences to help us understand Scripture. However we never go beyond what Scripture says even if we try to use tradition, reason, experience or anything else.
I understand that is MY point of view on Scripture. I understand that there are other points of view on the theological interpretation of Scripture. I am comfortable with that. When we do theological work we must remember that we only see a part of the terrain.
I came across a great quote from David Bosch this week that I would like to submit for your feedback:
“Our theologies are partial, and they are culturally and socially biased. They may never claim to be absolutes. Yet this does not make them relativistic, as though one suggests that in theology–since we really cannot ever know ‘absolutely’–anything goes. It is true that we see only in part, but we do see. We are committed to our understanding of revelation, yet we also remain a critical distance to that understanding…It is misleading to believe that commitment and a self-critical attitude are mutually exclusive.
“Far from leading us into a morass of subjectivism and relativism, the approach I am advocating fosters a creative tension between my ultimate faith commitment and my own theological perception of faith. Instead of viewing my own interpretation as absolutely correct and all other by definition wrong, I recognize that different theological interpretations, including my own, reflect different contexts, perspectives, and biases. That is not to say, however, that I regard all theological positions equally valid or that it does not matter what people believe; rather, I shall do my utmost to share my understanding of faith with others while granting them the right to do the same. I realize that my theological approach is a ‘map,’ and that a map is never the actual ‘territory’. Although I believe that my map is the best, I accept that there are other types of maps and also that, at least in theory, one of those may be better than mine since I can only know in part ([see] 1 Cor[inthains] 13:12).” (Emphasis mine)
So as you move across the terrain of theology, what map are you following? Is it reliable and trustworthy? Is it sound? What are other people telling you about the maps of their theological terrain? Be wary of any one who tells you that they, or their preferred theologian, owns all the territory. Only God–who can see the whole terrain–owns the territory.
Quote text from: Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission : Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, N.Y :: Orbis Books, 2011, p. 190-191.