Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Conversational Theology

I came across a term in a book I am reading, The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists, that reminded me a lot of an old post but one I return to a lot, Toward a community hermeneutic.

This has been a great book and I am almost done so a review is forthcoming but one passage really jumped out at me. This is the passage in question:
In the foreword to his 2007 book The Formation of Christian Doctrine, the contemporary Baptist scholar Malcolm Yarnell— who is also my supervisor and my teacher— meditates on the “necessarily conversational dimension” of theology. “From a believers’ church perspective, this entails conversation and judgment within the local church, conversation and recommendation within one’s own tradition, and conversation and proselytism with those outside.” This approach offers several advantages. First, it avoids an inadequate limitation to mere theological theory: Etymologically, the word “conversation,” derived from the Latin term "conversatio", denotes “living together, having dealings with others; manner of conducting oneself in the world,” as well as the “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” Hence, conversational theology cannot be done from the writing desk alone. 
The Anabaptists and Contemporary Baptists: Restoring New Testament Christianity (Kindle Locations 5024-5033). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
I really like that phrase, "conversational theology". All too often theology is done in the dusty offices of seminary professors and professional theologians (no offense to seminary profs with tidy offices). This leads to all sort of debate over minutiae and some squirrely ideas as they seek for something new and novel to talk about among their colleagues. It also removes the bulk of the church from the conversation, meaning that we end up with "trickle down theology" where each local pastor decides which theological ideas he shares and which he does not share. I don't blame them for that, if you talk with me you are not going to hear much positive about King James Onlyism or "Christian feminism" or a non-omniscient God. Nonetheless the church as a whole should be talking about and thinking through theology, not just in theory but also how it applies in practice, in the real lives of real Christians facing an increasingly hostile world.

So remember, if you are talking about the things of God with the brethren, you are engaged in conversational theology. You might not think you are a theologian but if you are a Christian you by definition are. The only question is whether you will be a good, informed theologian or a poor, ill-informed one!

No comments: