Theology is supposed to be a servant of the gospel and the church, not its master, as long as Theology is a pursuit of God.
Doing research seems to clarify the truth we proclaim, helping us to re-examine what we believe and equipping us to practice what we believe and preach in a more consistent way.
Eventually all theology is a reflection of God and is reflected in life. Good teaching produces a healthy lifestyle, bad teaching produces distorted living.
For theology to perform its servant ministry to the church, it must address the central biblical truths and relevant social and cultural issues. Most Christians were not delivered their faith in monasteries, but in continually changing societies. They must be equipped to practice their faith with relevance and integrity.
The world we live in has undergone considerable social change. Christian theology, theory and practice are intrinsically bound to many ways of thinking in many people, most people don’t know it, but the way we see or consider God will affect our life style and the decisions we make, knowingly or unknowingly. People will think they are making decisions but the decisions are always affected by perception which is gained through experience, history, parentage and, like it or not, the theology of the culture you are part of.
The world we live in is a scene of both new thinking and new practices.
How should Christians face changes in a secular society, that is how do we face new ways, issues and challenges? We have seen changes economically in Europe and other countries, how do we face these changes, changes in law regarding sexuality in the UK, how do we face this, the changes in regard to our view of marriage and family, how do I face this, some the issues in society bring about necessary changes and some are enforced changes, we will face the changes. There have been too many Christians who consider any change in secular society as negative and are negative about cultural and secular changes, because they have a fundamentally negative view of the secular world. This is not a healthy reaction.
There are other Christians who see every “progressive” step in history as an act of God. That is, all liberal and liberation movements are the direct result of the activity of God. This is as unhealthy as the opposite view posed above.
A balanced biblical view is that, while no changes in society can be given utopian status because of the perception of mankind, it is equally true that many changes in society are to be welcomed because they reflect the providential care God has for the world.
My view of Scripture is a high view, in the historic sense I believe that Scripture is authoritative, both when it speaks about salvation and when it speaks intentionally about other issues.
I hold this view not because I am unaware of the difficulties that exist in Scripture, but because history has demonstrated time and time again that the moment we set ourselves up as the judge of what is essential or non-essential within Scripture, we begin to slide towards a rejection of scriptural authority and the enthronement of the human mind.
I have come to this position having been pressed into views realising it is not the way of dealing with Scripture, for instance, on gender, am I a complementarian or an egalitarian? Neither, a bit of each I say, I am not sure that all biblical text fits either system. So how do I face these changes?
We must tackle Scripture not forgetting the following issues:
Trajectories – we must ask what direction does this thinking pattern set us? What Trajectory will I take when I embrace this direction of thought, where will I end up? Asking this question every time I grasp the word, where will I end up as far as i can see now, what direction will it set me on? I have made a change from a hierarchical view of God to a Trinitarian view, it is amazing the Trajectory of that thinking and what areas of practice it impacts, it sets a Trajectory I did not realise, its impact is so far reaching.
Where is it going? – An important question, if any destination replaces a view of God for us, a replacing of this Trinitarian God of Scripture with anything other than we must be careful. Does this destination so deconstruct God that I have nothing remaining.
Let me suggest an example text to ask these questions as we consider further that describes man in the image of God. Genesis 1 describes mankind as male and female, agreed, then consider Paul relates the relationship of the father to the son in some way to man-woman relationship in 1 Corinthians 11:1-3, and we can argue male female dynamics but first we must deal with the ultimate issue of this is it not: What is God like?
If we settle this as being at the heart of these texts What is God like it sets a Trajectory for all other debates when handling these texts.
As we consider these text and move forward it opens up many issue to look at and have been debates through time but for our example let us consider just two views.
First there are those who argue from a permanent hierarchical relationship between men and women, arguing from the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. Those who argue from an egalitarian relationship between men and women arguing from the eternal equality of essence within the Trinity. This takes us into the depth of Trinitarian theology.
Second if humankind as male and female, reflects the Trinity, therefore this opens up how does sex relate to God? Does God transcend gender? How does this effect the gay debate in sexuality? Should the consistent liberation of women lead to a review of merely gender language about God in favour of a female gender language about God?
What is God like?
Further consideration as we deal with Trajectory, the where is it going questions of texts about the creative order and the fall from that order
Genesis 1 describes man and woman created equal in the image of God. Genesis 2 then describes the more detailed relationship between man and woman in creation, both Jesus (Matthew 19:3-8) and Paul (1 Timothy 2:11-15) argue from creation, basing their statements on the way things were intended to be.
Genesis 3 describes the fall, which distorts Gods intended pattern of gender relations. We have to ask what exactly fell and altered in the creative orders here and has become part of our describing the creative order.
The creative order includes hierarchy, or does it really? Genesis narrative is placed in the context of kingship, who what doe that look like?
Are these text’s simply about the coming of the kingdom and the new creation, we also have now have tasted of the age to come. In Genesis we simply have the Kingdom expressed as it will be in relation to male and female, along with Paul’s reference when he said to the Galatians there is neither male or female, Paul just took a glimpse into Trajectory and saw the Kingdom a view of where this going, was talking him, and spoke from that view. Paul painted a picture of the ultimate in a very broken, fallen world.
The general theological position I subscribed to is enacted, inaugurated eschatologically in all my discussions and life style. I must take an eternal view where I can in all my positions. Did not Jesus come announcing and demonstrating the Kingdom, which he brought, announced and taught from an eternal kingdom view. He knew where his teaching was going towards, he had settled the Trajectory of the thinking. He knew the impact of the accepted religious world and how the Trajectory of his words would challenge and change the world around him.
So what is your Trajectory if we adopted the new in vogue teaching where is it going, this is the only way to deal with theology, truth and direction of teaching