Searching for a Theology Metaphor

I’m searching for a theology metaphor this morning. We often use the term “construct” in reference to theology, as in, we take the components and hammer out a theology. But is this helpful? Is it misleading?

There are so many directions to run in at once here. Let’s take a look at what goes into theology first.

Theology is derived ultimately from God and his revelation through the Spirit and scripture. This is handy since theology is supposed to be about God. So if we are looking to God as a source for the study about him, we’re certainly on the right track.

Theology happens in a local context that addresses particular issues within a certain cultural framework. The New Testament was written in the Roman/Hellenic world, while today I am writing in the Western world, a context that has been shaped in many ways by popular postmodern thinking. In addition, the mission of the church, knowing and making God known, should be the driving force behind theology. Why else should we do it? Just to have it?

Theology has a number of participants, namely the historic church (or tradition) and the global church today. Both have important things to add to our study of God.

And now the question, how can we describe what takes place when we jam all of these factors together?

And now for the metaphor . . .
Some have used the metaphor of dancing. That may not sit well with some Baptists and flat-footed fools such as myself.

Construction sounds too rigid. A recipe sounds too formulaic, almost scientific in nature.

Would it be too vague and predictably emergentese to describe theology as a cultural, historical, communal, and spiritual conversation? I fear that it is too unspecific and unspectacular to do any one any good. Nevertheless, what else is theology if it is not a conversation? Building a theology sounds too rigid, formal, and permanent.

Theology as conversation implies life, open participation, and contextual relevance (ah, don’t you love that word!). I think I’ll stick with theology as a conversation for now. Whaddaya think?

2 thoughts on “Searching for a Theology Metaphor

  1. Adam Malliet

    There is no need to pick just one metaphor, just as there is no reason to pick just one language. Perhaps our American (U.S., that is.) up bringing might suggest otherwise as we rhetorically humiliate people who attempt to speak any other language but English (American English, that is)

    I like the agricultural metaphor as well as the conversational metaphor. I have grown weary of the athletic and war metaphor. While I am sure they have their place, I think we need to over emphasize participatory metaphors in order to "combat"…damn, sigh… the pervasive competitive and individualistic influence we receive in our (as in U!S!A!) Western "Free" Market society.

  2. Ed Post author

    Good work Adam. I like where you’re going with that. Multiple perspectives require multiple metaphors.

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