This is the seventh article of a nine-part series on empowering a faith community to impact the world. Already hospitality, evangelism, missions, ethics, Bible, and spirituality have been explored.
In his book Becoming a Thinking Christian, John Cobb promotes the premise that all Christians can be theologians. He holds this premise to be true for anyone who is a thinking Christian.
Theology, the study of the nature of God and religious belief, is not reserved for clergy or those with theology degrees. Theology is not privileged territory.
Faith formation in church offerings must include invitations for safe space to think and consider the nature of God and religious belief. I hold that NONES, DONES, SBNRS, and the unaffiliated folks regard the church as the precarious place where propositions are to be preserved. Thinking is not required.
But the basic human endeavor for finding purpose and meaning in life needs to be the starting point. Religious propositions do not allow for such a search. In our postmodern climate, inflexible propositions keep folks away from the church.
The question, “Do you know our propositions?” is not a theological question. Rather, the theological question is, “How are you finding truth and meaning for your life?” On another question the reductionism is, “Are you saved?” But, the theological question is, “What have you been liberated to be and to do?”
Bible classes or study groups in which the same folks stay together for years disallows for such theological thinking. The attendees know in advance the responses that will be made and by whom. The space for thinking is smothered. As Walter Wink wrote in his book, Transforming Bible Study, the group continues to “reconfirm the consensus it established years ago.” There is no life left for theological thinking.
Worship services that pivot around a sermon rather than a full liturgy that summons the work of the people disallows for theological engagement. The mind, body, and senses must come into play for the enticement toward theological thinking. The mind can be engaged with a questioning sermon, a liturgy that promotes passion, and a space that titillates the senses.
In these and other ways and with other questions, the church is compelled to invite people into theological thinking. Where else does one have an intentional and informed focus for thinking on the things that form faith, that lead us to a life with God?