Church and Theology in The Shaping of Things to Come

I’ve been a believer that theology belongs in the regular life of the church. Lately I’ve come across a few thinkers who share that idea.

Michael Frost and Alan Hirsh state in The Shaping of Things to Come:

It is important to note that truly indigenous churches are ones that are self-theologizing. Christ is in a community when it is able to develop its own theology using language, symbols, and longings with local flavor and resonance. This sounds risky, we know. But we are not suggesting that basic Christian doctrine be up for negotiation. As indigenous churches grow, they must be people of the Word of God, but they need to express biblical theology in culturally relevant ways (74).

Jordon (with an “O”) Cooper quoted Stanley Grenz the other day:

Solid theological reflection is crucial in the practice of ministry, understood both narrowly as the work of ordained leaders and in the wider sense of being the whole life and mission of the people of God. Actually, today the chief rival to ministering from a theological base is engaging in the practice of “church” by means of a pragmatic outlook, that makes decisions largely if not solely on the basis of a consideration of what “works.” In the long run, however, the pragmatic approach is self-defeating, simply because it transforms the community of faith into an institution whose chief end is not the glory of God and the fulfillment of a divinely-given mandate, but survival. The long-term health and viability of the church demands that its leaders and people return again and again to the forming and informing vision of what the community of Christ is called, mandated, and empowered to be by the Lord of the church. Above all, I would add, we are called to be a people who embody in our life together and in our relationships to all humans and even to all creation the great narrative of the biblical God, the one who has come to us in Christ and now empowers us through the Holy Spirit poured out in our hearts and in our fellowship.

I don’t think either of these statements require every church to develop it’s own creeds and host theological conferences. Instead, think of it this way. While we have some basic chunks of Orthodox Christianity that must be affirmed, we should not simply adopt every theological notion that hops down the pike. We must listen to the Spirit of God and to the church.

The truth is that God wants to apply the scripture to our lives here and now, and we are the most qualified people to live out the Gospel in our own context. That right there may be what contextual theology looks like. Simply living the truth of God in a particular time and place.