Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Wesleyan Theological Vision, Part 1

Not the Wesleyan theological vision.  Here is what I want to be distinctive about the way the Bible, theology, and church history are taught at Wesley seminary and IWU.  It is a first stab (obviously after years of lunchroom and coffee pot banter), very open to revision and refinement, especially by my colleagues.  This is my first stab at more general principles, which I might follow up with more specifically Wesleyan ones.

1. Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, our appropriation of the Bible involves a complex combination of history, theology, our experiences, our cultures, our circumstances, and our personalities.  This cannot, not be the case.  We must embrace it, make it conscious, and normalize it.

2. Common Christian Tradition, the "catholic" faith, must surely reflect the normalizing work of the Spirit in appropriating the biblical texts and the key speakings from God to humanity for the future of God's people.  Christian theology, as it has developed in Christian history is the normalizing work of the Spirit in appropriating the biblical texts and fulfilling God's voice in the world.

3. Common Christian Tradition is as stable and solid as any revelatory "corpus," but it is still open to reformation by the Spirit and requires contextualization.  It is never completely clear what elements of common Christian Tradition were themselves contextualizations of the past.

4.  The very nature of the biblical texts originally was far more contextualized than propositional.  In that sense they must be located within the flow of God's ongoing revelation and read with a view to their contexts.  At the same time, God has used and continues to use them as a sacrament of revelation whereby he has both developed common Christian tradition and through which he effects reformation.  He can and does speak directly to us today, even individually, through meanings he gives to the Scriptures both old and new.  Both historical and theological readings of the Bible are thus appropriate, the former for a sense of how God has developed his relationship with humanity in the past and the latter as a mirror of where he has brought us in his working in the present.

5. The primary purpose of learning about God, His people, and the world in the past is to form us as beings and doers in the present and future.  The most appropriate orientation toward the Bible, theology, and Christian history is thus not backward looking, to discover timeless truths (which is as often as not a semantic game we are playing with ourselves), but to know how to be and do in relationship with God, the church, and the world both today and in the days to come.

Perhaps more to come...  Very open to critique...

1 comment:

Greg Teegarden said...

I agree with you altogether. Just a small suggestion. Can you dumb down your articles. I understood what you said, but it was still a difficult read because of all the "BIG" words so to speak. The average reader of blogs would have a real problem understaning... the deep theological insights conveyed.

God Bless,