April 13, 2017 — Comments are off for this post.

Our Common Struggle: Part Four

Here we go! Part four of my series around what it means to be human. Here I outline my second criteria for engaging in a theological anthropology of the 21st century: that it requires taking seriously the context of community. 

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April 12, 2017 — Comments are off for this post.

Our Common Struggle: Part Three

A part of an ongoing series around what it means to be human. In this post I explore my first criteria necessary for engaging in a theological anthropology for the 21st century: that it must be trinitarian. 

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April 6, 2017 — Comments are off for this post.

Our Common Struggle: Part Two

This is part two in a series I am working on as we head into Easter around what it means to be human. Here I outline a basic starting point into the conversation. I call it: "I Am Human, I Think." 

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April 5, 2017 — Comments are off for this post.

Our Common Struggle: Part One

A Lenten/Easter exploration over several posts on what it means to be human. This is based on a research paper I wrote for my systematic theology course. In this post, I address the question itself and some of the complications around trying to answer it. 

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May 15, 2014 — Comments are off for this post.

Theology Over Doctrine

Confession: I've spent the last 48 hours immersed in a fairly substantial theological debate with myself. The topic, why is Jesus God and does it even matter? 
It's got me running down all sorts of fun mental rabbit trails and writing furiously in my notebook. I've been obsessively flipping through books and jumping through scripture like I'm researching a talk or writing a paper. I even texted a couple friends asking what they think.

In the process I realized something about myself,

I prefer theology to doctrine.

What exactly do I mean by that?

Well, it all comes down to what I'm talking about when I say theology and doctrine. Here, theology can be understood as the study of the nature of God; where doctrine is defined as a belief or set of beliefs held by a religious organization. Turns out the two, while similar in theory, are worlds apart in practice.

Where one is dynamic, the other is static. Where one is flexible, the other is rigid. Where one you actively engage in, the other you passively adhere to.

Theology is exciting to me.

It brings new life to my faith and pushes me deeper in my ever-expanding awareness of God. It invites me into a larger conversation with all sorts of other people asking the same questions that I am, exploring God together, and interacting with all those who have come before us.

Doctrine, on the other hand, has no room for any of that.

Instead of a conversation, doctrine only offers repetition. Rather than welcoming questions, doctrine insists on conformity. While theology is like going on a journey, doctrine is more like being sent to boot-camp.

That's what I mean when I say I prefer theology over doctrine.

It's also my personal conviction that if we hope to engage this generation in spiritual matters we need to invite them to do theology with us, not just hand them doctrines from us - which it turns out is a really hard thing for most of us operating inside the institutional churches to accept. Probably because we're so afraid that our doctrinal conclusions will somehow be compromised that we're unwilling to explore the questions that brought us to them in the first place. The only problem is that these are the same questions that young people are asking whether we want them to or not. Our role should be to help them discover how to answer these questions for themselves in a safe space that embraces the conversation.

After all, this is a generation that has been taught to 'show their work' and 'cite their sources' since grade school. They're hard-wired to figure out how to get to the answer. Simply knowing the conclusion doesn't come close to cutting it for them... and it shouldn't be satisfactory for us either.

Sometimes I wonder if the real reason that those of us within the church fear theological conversation with this generation is because we only know how to recite the doctrinal statements that we've been taught. We're well-read on leadership principles and business models and however many habits highly successful people have these days; but we're theologically shallow. So we avoid the questions because we have no idea how to get to the answer.

How did we get here?

I believe it's because we've let our reliance on doctrine replace our need for theology. It is far easier to just be told what to think than it is to learn how. I'm just not sure the cost for our complacency is worth it and I'm certain it won't be enough for an entire generation of young people who desire to be part of the conversation.

Oh, by the way, if you're wondering which of the two you prefer, just note your reaction when I first told you I was asking if Jesus was God and if it even mattered.