First, an apology for being away from the blog for so long. In Sunday School we made it all the way through the seven deadly sins and the seven last words without a peep here. As of this new session, I’m vowing to turn over a new leaf.
That new session is entitled “Thinking Like a Christian.” The goal for this study is to see all of life through the lens of our beliefs, to allow our faith to better inform our relationships, our work, and our life in the community. You may have heard me or someone else say that everyone is a theologian. That simply means that all of us carry around with us an understanding of who God is, and how God relates to the world. That understanding of God shapes and informs how we see other people, and how we interact with them.
Which is a good thing, right? Well, yes, except when that understanding of God and the world comes from places you might not be all that aware of, and if it involves ideas you might not have thought much about lately. This is what some folks call embedded theology: the soup of theological ideas that we’ve been absorbing, little by little, since we were children. Embedded theology is important, because it functions as the auto-pilot in our outlook on the world. The problem comes when we live out an idea in our embedded theology, but we don’t know who put that idea in there.
Which is why there’s something called deliberative theology, which is simply the theology you think about explicitly. An example: I work downtown, and when I walk around at lunchtime people sometimes come up to me to ask for money. The choices I customarily see in that situation are two-fold: either give them some money, or don’t. But either choice (or choosing to see a third option) involves a way of thinking about God and the world. Choosing to give them some money could flow out of a desire to be faithful to the ancient Christian injunction to give alms to those who ask. Choosing not to do so could express a sense of responsibility not to support an individual’s substance abuse habit. But in truth, I almost never think about these things when someone approaches me on the street; I just decide what to do based on how I’m feeling at the moment. A deliberative theology, one that I engage in before anyone ever steps up to me on the street, that tries to weigh the claims of faithfulness and responsibility; this might help me make better judgments when that situation next arises.
And so this is our task in the Thinking and Believing class over the next few weeks: to learn how to take our embedded theology out of its box every now and then, subject it to a little scrutiny, and see if this deliberative process doesn’t help us better understand and live out our faith. I’ll see you there!