Simple vs Simplistic Faith: Theology as Society’s Street Sign


In my readings these past weeks I’ve come across many a gem from many different authors. The profound insights of Aquinas and Augustine, the moral teachings of John Paul II, the research of Biola’s Dr. William Lane Craig, the practical theology of Pastor Ray Warren and the cultural commentaries of Father Robert Barron. These all proved to be of great assistance in developing an understanding of not only the role of faith and depth with which it answers life’s deep questions, but it presented a unique opportunity to re examine my own appreciation for the Theological discipline itself.

A friend of mine inquired of me as to the relevance of theology itself in the development of a healthy, and informed Christian faith. I found the writings of Daniel Migliore (Emeritus Professor of Theology at Princeton’s Theological Seminary) most fitting an answer;

“Faith seeks the truth of God that wants not only to be known by the mind but also enjoyed and practiced by the whole person. Theology as thoughtful faith comes from and returns to the service of God & neighbour. Christian faith is indeed simple, but it is not simplistic…trust in Christ is indeed necessary, but Christians are enjoined to bring their whole life and their every thought into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), and this is always an arduous process. While the church is indeed under the authority of the biblical witness, it must avoid bibliolatry. While Christians are certainly to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, they are also commanded to test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1).

An appeal to the Bible of the Holy Spirit should not be considered an alternative to serious reflection. Christian faith must not be reduced to cliches and feelings (sound familiar?). The sort of thinking that Christian faith sets in motion does not replace trust in God but acts as a critical ingredient that helps to distinguish faith from mere illusion or pious evasion.”

How’s that for a commentary on the state of modern Christianity today? So in light of this summary, I posed a question back to my dear friend – what can you therefore say about our understanding of Faith, our relationship to God and to one another? How does your Theology inform your understanding of faith and how have you arrived at that conclusion? Theology is thus necessarily, a product of our human inquisitiveness with existence, taken together with the biblical mandate to ‘test all things and hold on to what is good’ (1 Thess. 5:21). As if poignantly indicative of the western culture of ‘rush’, can we say with all honesty that we’ve ‘tested’ all that we’ve come to know and assume of our faith? Is it important enough for us take the time to think deeper about the ‘things of God?’ In our culture of convenience, have we complicated and diluted our understanding of Christian teaching by adopting the modernist approach? Is Christian faith so oversimplified today that we can merely ‘drive thru’ and pick out the teachings which suit us? Whilst no may be your immediate answer, I’d encourage you to take a deeper look. I can think of two recent social issues which have shone a blazing light of scrutiny on the many forms of Christianity today which have sought to bend Gospel values and christian teachings in order to accommodate social change.
These are the questions asked by Theology. It is the tool we use to view the state of society through the lens of the Christian faith. Let’s not let our western tendency to oversimplify things to suit us, get in the way of understanding the rich and textured message which has long been the power of the Christian faith. The vastness of thought and practice accumulated for over two millenia should be our guide, not our adversary.

Let me close by reiterating a point made by the good professor on the purpose of Theology. At the end of the day, it comes down to this – “As thoughtful faith, (theology) comes from and returns to the service of God & neighbour.”

Blessings to you all,

J.

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