Quoting Theology: Good Friday Edition  

Posted by Adam

"So it is impossible to speak of an incarnation of God without keeping this conclusion in view. There can be no theology of the incarnation which does not become a theology of the cross. 'As soon as you say incarnation, you say cross.' God did not become a man according to the measure of our conceptions of being a man. He became the kind of man we do not want to be: an outcast, accursed, crucified...

...When the crucified Jesus is called 'the image of the invisible God', the meaning is that this is God and God is like this. God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity."
--Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God pg. 205

This entry was posted on Friday, April 10, 2009 at Friday, April 10, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



This is not a response particularly aimed at the "quoting theology" post, but more towards you post-restorationist bloggers as a whole.
I am always intrigued with the prospect of a new, hopefully more challenging, perspective on the current state of Christianity and the churches of Christ. I appreciate the energy. I appreciate the outflowing of deeper thinking and spiritual maturity.
However, I am always - yes always - disappointed in the end. These post-restorationist discussions are fine, valid, and thought provoking. But that's all... they stop at provoking thought; as so many movements tend to do.
I do not cast stones because these discourses are an integral part of a thinking being's growth and development. But I am so distraught at the failure to transition from thought to action. I fear this is yet another theory or set of ideas to replace the former. Another recipe to guide sermons and perhaps prompt fresh classroom discussion.
But where is the practical application? Where is the lifestyle? Where are the testimonies of actual experiences that represent these ideas? Give me the step by step actions! Not just the ideas; give me the doing!
Answer me HOW!? I find myself asking the screen... how do I translate these passing theories into actual lifestyle. What actions do I take to replace sin, or to replace misguided doctrine, or to replace the neutral living and working I engage and distract myself with daily. Where is the gameplan, the training, the skillset to DO; not to just replace old thinking with new - but to ACT on it?
This blog... as many others... lacks the practical application of it's assertions. Theology is fine. But to simply replace a theology of inter-religious competition or step-based salvation with a theology that is based on denying those things has truly gotten you no further in actual living. It is an exchange of philosophy. And thousands of philosophies have yet to change the world.
What did Jesus DO and say to DO and how do we do it in todays world? That is the question to tackle for a Christian who is already converted to faith. To spend all of one's life questioning then remolding that faith is to be blind to actually LIVING it.
So how do you LIVE post-restorationist perspectives? And if the answer is just to subtly change what we're already doing during the worship hour with new reasons for doing the old things - then we've gotten nowhere.
Break out of the mold! God has said to leave the milk behind and move on the meat. Are these "perspectives" condusive to that purpose? I honestly inquire, please tell me HOW?

April 22, 2009 at 9:38 PM

blackenedwood, in some ways, you have to find what YOU can do to help take this from thought to action. One way that I've personally done it is getting involved in prison ministry, to try and take Jesus' words about serving the least of these seriously.

But you also have to think in terms of baby steps. Some people might be able to run a spiritual marathon immediately, to borrow a Richard Foster metaphor. But most of us have to find small ways of changing our attitudes and behaviors and let those develop into bigger, life changing ways.

Part of it too is surrounding yourself with a community that will support you in this and lift you up when you need it and you can lift up as well.

I've experienced the same frustrations that you have in this matter. The difficulty of going from thought to action, but often we have to take that first step to begin that changeover.



April 24, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Thanks for your response Phil...
It's certainly appropriate to grow and improve in both thought and action, mind and movement...
It's just finding that community that does both that's so frustrating. Even just finding individuals who do so is much harder than it ought to be.
And yes, that's frustrating but it's also telling, I think, of the nature of the church in the West. It weighs heavy on my heart to challenge myself and others to action. I think it is something God wants me to do. I feel driven to point out the missing link between theology and living. Not to condemn or demean the theology at all - but to encourage the spiritually mature to make that jump.
It's an encouragement to me to hear that you've turned thought into action with prison ministry. And I think philosphical or religious refinements like post-restorationst perspectives can re-invigorate us to such actions. A fresh perspective can inspire fresh energy for God, with prayer.
I'm posting here to ask if that's actually the case here? Are you taking this path for the sake of change; for the sake of molding the worship service; for the sake of historical discourse? Or does this discourse take you gentlemen to higher levels of action - in things like a prison ministry?
See, that's where my hunger lies... how do you translate your theological musings to practical lifestyles? All that's unsaid is what I want to read about... in terms of your actual ministries.
It's one thing to say you take part in such ministries. But it's another all together to discuss those efforts. Cause it's hard. It's challenging to talk one on one or in a group to others about Jesus. But those are the challenges that I believe Christians most need to hear about. I want to learn from your mistakes. I want to hear what worked and what didn't. Which type of person was open to Jesus and to you, and why? What are the subtle and obvious signs they show to let you know the seeds are taking root? How do you know when it's dangerous? How do you know when the verses you are sharing are being misinterpreted?
I can go on and on... and I hunger for all those answers and more...
But particularly I'm interested in finding folks - in person, or on blogs, or anywhere - who actually translate their theology into living. So how has investigating or comparing the post-restoration ideas you're blogging on here directly impacted your ministries?
To be frank, when I find those theologies that don't actually translate is when I simply move on and look for someone else whose thinkings do help their actions.
I believe this is the essential nature of our Christian service, to apply all of ourselves from theology to living into service. And to discard those parts of our lives that don't work to that end - especially those that "look" like they help me mature, but actually just take up my time.
Hope all that makes sense... Again, thanks for your response
community is important for Christian living, I agree...
baby steps are the only kind children can take, I agree...
It's just the nitty gritty details I'm looking for.

April 25, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Honestly blackenedwood, it's one of the great ironies of the Christian life. It's an intensely personal journey that done best in community.

And I honestly can't speak to how others are translating theory into practice. Only for myself.

What way(s) are you finding to do it?

April 25, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Well I'm not a minister. But I envy ministers because they can often be involved in ministry full time, all day, every day, and still support their families; it is a job afterall.
So I sought out one of the few other jobs that can give me a life of service and still grant me the salary to pay the bills, and became a firefighter/paramedic. To lay my life down for others if need be. And to try and save lives or treat hurts when people are at their worst.
But as can be done with any job, I simply start the day by praying to God and offering my day and efforts as a service to him.
Still... I always hunger for more. The environment at the firehouse is very much like a business and discussions of religion and faith are typically frowned upon; and such conversations would be a point of reprimand if done with patients. So I'm trying to learn about the ministries of others; which might be good for me and/or good to do as an entire family. Unfortunately my local congregation is not exactly socially active... so inner city, prison, soup kitchen, or similar missions are not already available. I'm willing to start one if I find the right one... but it would seem to be rather irresponsible to just wing it with no insight to the nature of the struggle. So I search online. I visit blogs like this one and look for the purpose behind the discussion. Testimonies are hard to find - as in actual day by day struggles - that is. But talk of what's wrong with the church is abundant. Hebrews 5 and 6 reads:

"11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (6)
"1Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3And God permitting, we will do so."

I fear that so many discussions in the church of Christ, online or off, is simply "laying again the foundation of repentance" etc... And while it is perhaps profitable to revisit our motivations and theology for our beliefs, clearly God has called us to move beyond milk to meat. Meat is like righteousness. And righteousness is acquired by God's grace and by right living... not talking about right living. Now perhaps I've misunderstood the above passage. But I know the coC has spent many years re-laying that foundation of baptism, over and again. For a time it was how we defined ourselves - that and a cappella singing. And I believed it was the right battle, like most others did.
Then I read Hebrews 5 and 6. And I hunger now for meat. There's so little serious training in the church for the missions God has called us to. We spend Sunday morning with the main focus of the service usually on the sermon. And the sermon is consistently full of sound theology. Yet devoid of it's practical application. Devoid of actual life lessons. The thinking is great, and don't get me wrong. I recognize the vast majority of the brethren are sheep at best, only ready for milk. But if you never transition them to meat... if you never tell them exactly what the might say to their coworkers or neighbors... if you never share with them the reality of rejection... if you never tell your own story of hope and faith despite getting tongue tied or being robbed at someone's door... then you have done a great disservice to those who you lead.
And if I never question these things for myself, then I have contributed to that disservice. And for some reason I also feel obliged by my conscience or perhaps the nudging of the Holy Spirit to encourage others to the same considerations.
So, with much ado, I hope your efforts go well. I hope you do learn how others translate theory into practice. And I hope you have a strong community in which to pursue those efforts. I don't live in middle TN anymore, but I grew up there... and I assure you there are not many other places with that kind of support system. Still, perhaps I am where I am simply so I will have developed the hunger I now have, of knowing the intricate details of how to turn theology into service.
God's speed to you.

April 25, 2009 at 8:05 PM

I wanted to think about your comments for a couple of days before I responded to them. I actually appreciate your position, and I agree with your basic argument about the importance of praxis and transformation.
However, I almost missed what you were saying because of how you said it. You are obviously very frustrated with the problem in general, and probably with something more immediate and personal. I think that maybe some of the frustration you feel towards people and institutions that you are familiar with bled through in your comments. The authors on this site are mostly friends of mine, who I personally know are not just great thinkers, but who are also not only devoting their lives to praxis and transformation. Most of them are also giving their lives to voicing and modeling this message to their faith communities. So again, it felt like you were being very presumptuous and falsely accusatory of people that you don't know. Please understand, I recognize this because I am prone to do exactly the same thing, and it can obscure the message. I think you have some really important things to say. It would be unfortunate if no one can hear them.

April 27, 2009 at 10:39 AM

Well I see where you're coming from because it is very easy to read text as if it is aggressive. I suppose I don't have a smooth tongue to make my inquiries sound sweet, and that's my literary failure. But I'm sure you also realized, eventually, that my posts were not at all meant as attacks, but meant as intellectual parlay.

My posts are not falsely accusatory. They are intentionaly accusatory. BUT!
But they are not directed at individuals, they're directed at facts. They are directed at ideas, not people - so no offense is intended. I wasn't attacking your friends. I was commenting on the very serious reality that Christian living is constantly being replaced with theological discourse. That's the fact I have frustration about. My frustration is not with this blog nor its authors for sure. I'm raising awareness - accusing, if you will - such theological discourses of stopping short.
Stopping short of praxis, as you astutely defined it.
Post-Restorationist Perspectives are fine to study and flesh out. As I said before, such pursuits are an integral part of a thinking being's growth. They are fine and good and worthwhile - and all of you are fine and good and worthwhile for the pursuing!

The real point I'm asking about, is how do these ideas translate into being Christ-like?
Because Jesus spent his short time here teaching people what to do, how to live, what to teach others. But the church of Christ has been stuck for years on what happens during the worship service much more than what happens outside of it. The perception then is that the restoration movement deals primarily with the "rules" of the worship service. Not on the part of Christianity that actually needs restoring - the living, acting, breathing, working, evangelising part of it.
To say that I'm being very presumptuous to ask how your blog accomplishes that essential goal just might be true. I am presuming there still is no action to be found in this particular theology. Not to say that you and your friends aren't engaged in the life work of God's calling outside of this blog, at all. But I simply am blinded as to how this particular theology, this particular discussion translates into such work. For them - for me - for all who stop by.

I realize of course that text should come with disclaimers. Perhaps my writing sounds accusatory and frustrated to you. But it's intent is to be challenging. There's subtle and overt differences there. All I can say is that the Holy Bible is challenging. Not that my writing compares in any way... but the lesson is that Jesus calls us to a hard and hardy way of life. And my belief is that theoretical ponderings without praxis are milk, not meat. That's not an indictment of those ponderings, nor an insult to those who do them - we all do!
I simply feel challenged, myself, to do more than think. And when I examine my life, I ask myself if my time is well spent - is geared towards meat, as it were. So to solve this problem, I try to find a way to indulge my thinking self. I engage in hypothetical musings and attitdue adjustments... then try to go about applying the thoughts to action. You follow? So my posts here were asking for suggestions on how to apply post-restorationist perspectives to said action. Unfortunately, none here have been able to offer up those suggestions.

I'm sorry if it's difficult to understand me; but it's a much more signifcant issue to me than to simply say "where's the praxis to this" and leave it at that. My passion is too strong in the search for testimony on how this actually works, not just speaks. I appreciate that you're pointing out your opinion that my wording isn't condusive to happy discussion. I understand what you're saying to me... but perhaps I can now meekly, humbly, yet challengingly ask if you've come up with an answer to my query?

Post-Restorationist Perspectives: What's it got to do with doing? Or does it?

May 19, 2009 at 6:33 PM

I suppose that if you just ignore him he'll go away, huh?
Then we won't have to deal with the challenge, and we can hunker ever further down into the catacombs of these musings; as if they were actually the axis of what's missing in Christianity, eh?

June 18, 2009 at 8:42 PM

Dude, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Life got a little crazy between ministry and finishing up grad school.

It is striking how angry and even condescending you seem. I imagine this stems from a general frustration with more than just this particular blog...plus, I'd also imagine that my slowness in responding added to your frustration, as you might have taken it as a sign of disrespect. My lack of a presence here was unavoidable, but I am sorry for taking so long, as you deserve a response.

I also imagine that you are so passionate about this because you actually care about the church and about this Way of life that we are called to. You and I have common ground here (actually, I suspect we have more common ground than you could possibly guess). You probably think that I am missing the point of what you are saying (and I must admit that the possibility exists), but I think you misunderstand our theology functions. 1) absolutely everyone is a theologian in some sense...even you. Your comments on this site are an example of theology. 2) Healthy and robust theology leads to discipleship and mission. If it functions to sidestep partnering with a living and active God in his mission to the world, it is frankly not good theology.

If I'm reading you right, it seems like some of the philosophical questioning is a big part of what bugs you. You seem to see it as circular navel-gazing that only serves to distract and disengage. For many of us, we had to participate in that kind of theological discourse in order to disentangle our prior understanding so that we could even see a missional theology in Scripture. Perhaps you started in a much healthier place than many of us, and find this unnecessary. However, for many of us who are working with churches, such discourse is necessary to help us move from where we are to where we ought to be. Its the cultivation of a position of humility, which rather than driving us to inaction, beckons us forward (because we always have farther to go, and there is always more that God is doing that we are called to be a part of).

July 2, 2009 at 3:51 PM

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