e a Christian 2
Last week we started our discussion of thinking like a Christian by talking about embedded theology (the whole set of assumptions, perspectives, and opinions about God we carry around with us day-to-day), and deliberative theology (these same assumptions, perspectives, and opinions, but this time examined and thought through carefully). This week I want to continue that conversation by talking about something called theological in-laws.
In my very first theology class we were talking one day about our beliefs on a particular subject when the professor told us, “remember, when you stake out a theological position, you not only marry a spouse, you take on a set of in-laws as well.” He meant, of course, that once you start thinking more carefully about what you believe, you find pluses and minuses to just about everything. Take, for example, our story of the Great Hymnal Controversy (I am indebted for this story to Howard Stone and James Duke’s book How to Think Theologically). The members of a church are divided between those who want to buy new hymnals and those who want to use the money instead to do something in the community. As we discussed in class last week, each of these positions affirms some kind of theological idea or value. The folks who want to buy hymnals are, in general, saying that the worship of God requires of us the best we have to offer. Those who don’t want to buy them are upholding the church’s call to help those outside our doors who are in need. Both of these are thoroughly Christian things to say But notice how, by affirming one position, the members of the church have at least implicitly chosen to deny or diminish the other. In this instance choosing to focus on the worship of God says, in essence, that those out in the world who need us aren’t as important. The same is true the other way around, of course.
My point here is that thinking like a Christian requires two things of us: First, that we make sometimes difficult choices between good options. Second, that we own up to and accept the consequences of our choice of one theological idea over another. Insight and humility require us to admit that any theological position we accept is going to take us down paths we might not wish to follow. The only option, of course, is not to believe anything–which turns out to be no option at all.
By the way; I’m visiting my in-laws this weekend, who are perfectly lovely folks. Yours are too, I’m sure. 😉