Friday, November 17, 2006

Theology: the toy everyone has

Theology is ubiquitous. Everyone has one whether they like it or not. It's funny that theology is so often relegated to some anti-spiritual, academic exercise. But even the super-spiritual have a dogma that they will defend with everything they have, just like the scholastics. They may even be more dogmatic than scholars are on certain issues.

What exactly is theology of the academic variety? Well, chiefly, it is a theology rooted in the Bible, such that undocumented and unscriptural phenomena are considered secondary data. Academians also spent inordinate amounts of time and effort hearing one another's views and attempt to trace the development of doctrine down the centuries; they evaluate it in light of the available Biblical data. Seems responsible so far.

Theology of the super-spiritual kind? Well, seems like it's based on one's own experiences, intuitions, feelings. That doesn't mean that it's wrong, just not as objective. There's no need to confirm it with through others or read what others say about it - I experienced it, and that's all that matters. If God revealed it directly, who is anyone to scrutinize it? History? no need, God is doing a "new thing". Here's the rub: when experiential theology drifts off the path, how does it get back one? How does one even know that it got off to begin with.

The beauty of academic theology is that it is always done in community. Sure, theological debates are often heated and pointless and seem like anything but community-oriented. But such feedback from the theological community and saints through the ages is invaluable in preserving sound doctrine. But when 'theologians' come by claiming, "God is doing something new!" or "God directly revealed such and such to me .." what are we to say in response to that. This kind of theology operates within its own subjective framework and everyone goes with the flow until there's a desire to return to the Word. It's a vicious cycle.

I'm not against charismatics, I wish the church was more 'charismatic' in many ways. I just don't see the propriety of dismissing academic theology in favour of an experiential one; or viewing it as somehow unspiritual.

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