Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Value of Theology is in the Questions it Raises

Theologians, 120 of strong from 30 countries gathering for the "Global Consultion: Theology in the Life of Luthean Churches" in Augsburg, Germany, for six days heard papers, discussed, shared ideas and engaged in invigorating conversation.

The Rev. Dr. Karen Bloomquist, Director of Theology and Studies for Lutheran World Federation, who lead the event, said that theology is necessarily contextual. We cannot presume to speak as though we have universal theological categories that have the same meaning for all people. The value of theology is in the questions it raises. The challenge is to do theology in the midst of the global Lutheran communion.

Theology asks such questions as: "How might resurrected hope be embodied and enacted amid the emptiness, pathos and suffering in our world--for the sake of the healing of the world? How does God's libeating, reconciling work become incarnate in the many contexts in which Lutheran churches today seek to live out the Christian faith? How is what we confess reflected in how we worship, preach teach, pray, living together as communities of faith, and respond to the challenges we face in our world today?"

The Rev. Dr. Benson Bagonza, a bishop in the Lutheran Church in Tanzania outlined an African theology of sustainable development. He said that the church represents the biggest social movement in Tanzania and that it is rural oriented and politically positioned to affect change. He noted the issues of depending heaily on outside funding which can readually erode selfhood. He questioned the church's leaning heavily on alliance with the state, which in turn galvanizes colonial memories. He said that an African theology of sustainable development heeds the voices of ordinary people within Africa and outside African in the triple theological quest to indigenize, liberate and reconstructin a desire to preserve, promote, and enhance a just society where poverty and discrimination are being overcome.

I had known Benson when he was a student at Wartburg Seminary in the Theology, Development and Evangelism program. Karen and I have been friends for many years. To be together with them, and many others, old friends and new, was a banquet in itself. I shall share more in weeks to come.


Rob G. said...

I've heard it said that Lutheran theology is done best when it asks the question, "why did Jesus have to die?" I have found that a helpful starting point for all of my theological reflection, regardless of context. I also find it helpful as a starting point in addressing the questions Karen Bloomquist asks, as all of these are logical questions which eventually grow out of the original. Thanks for getting us thinking about this, Norma.

Adam said...

"The Value of theology is in the Questions it Raises" is a phrase that doesn't sit well with me. I can't squarely put my finger upon why, but have some initial leanings.

First, valuing our "God talk" or "God study" by what questions we bring to the table seems to be very anthropocentric. Finding value in something we create is a closed-loop. If we raise questions we or others like, than it is very easy to think that we are doing good theology. Worse, perhaps, is that there is a very real possibility that we can raise questions that have increasingly less to do with God and more to do with our own perceptions of "God," religion, and the human condition.

I'm probably chasing a minor point to hard. However, if we really believe that the "value" of theology is solely derived from the questions we bring, I think we are doing theology a disservice. There is certainly value in the questions, but, I would argue, that the central value is found in theology's intentional openness to the divine and revelation. There is where transformation lies.

John said...

Thank you, Norma. Too often the point of theology seems to be having answers - not seeking better questions. These answers become ways in which we seek to have control over the world. Your point, Adam, is well taken. We can use either quetions or answers as a way to simply focus on ourselves. One of the "tricks" of theology is letting it ask the questions instead of our bringing our questions to it. Or perhaps letting it be the context from which our experience shapes questions.
Good questions drive us deeper, open us more fully. Good questions fill us with humility. These are good gifts.

Anonymous said...

I'm sitting here with two, 13 year old boys. They glanced up from the world of Warcraft game, and asked me what I was so interested in, as I read this blog. I told them I was reading alot of big words about the questions that come up from when we think about life, and then I asked them what their theological questions were from their WOW adventures. These are the ones that came up.
1. How do we know that God exists, and if God does exist, how do we know there isn't more than one, and if there is more than one, why has God lied to us?
2. Since we are created in the image of God, why can't we smite people?
3. What do angels actually look like?

I think those are some pretty good questions. It leads to my own question. How can we all ask our God/Life questions together, even when they come from World of Warcraft? What does World of Warcraft have to do with daily life - obviously something to these two 13 year olds.


Anonymous said...

I was also one of those 13 year old boys and one of my questions where not asked by Amanda, so I will ask that here. How do we know which is right evolution or creation and if one is right and the other not how do we know. If both is right in some way how do they tie together in anyway. Amanda has explained her belief in this, but I would like to hear others idea on this too. My email is dj_clarey@hotmail.com


Anonymous said...

Hehe I was one of those 13 teen year old boys, and kind of continuing the what do angels look like, They are portrayed in the media are very different. They come in Human form they come in dream form and even in Revelations one is a 6-winged Angel. So what do angels really look like? Maybe we are all wrong. Maybe just one of us are right. Even we could all be right because we are made in the image God so we could all seem them in our own way. I mean so two people could see one angel and they could both see something different. It would be really interesting to actually know what angel is. But in the end it may be like see the image of god and being just blow away because it is so majestic and perfect. My email is z_manrocks@hotmail.com