“Theology does not invent beliefs; it finds beliefs already among Christians and critically examines them.” This is one of the many helpful definitions of theology that Stan Grenz and Roger Olsen supply in their book “Who Needs Theology. Chapter 5 particularly reminds us that Christians already possess beliefs before they may even recognize that they are thinking theologically, but more it sets forth the task of helping Christians to recognize specifically what good contextualized theology does.
As I reflected on exactly what theology has found in me, I established that I believe and therefore, hold to what I consider to be sound doctrine about God. For example, I believe that God is the great Creator of all things and therefore, He is righteous, just and equitable. I believe that God created humanity in His own image and likeness; furthermore, when we rely on Him, human beings are capable of behaving god-like. But at the same time, humanity is fallen and as a result, each of us tends toward self.
With that said, the context from which I write is one that is attempting to square what I firmly believe to be true about God, humanity and the world in which we live against the pain of unrighteousness, injustice and inequity that seems rampant, and unchecked not only in North America, but around the world. I have to embarrassingly admit, that what I believe and what I witness daily, presents me with some cognitive dissonance about what I have previously affirmed.
Particularly over the last 2 or 3 weeks, I have been immensely influenced and impacted by the reflections of many of my cohort mates in LGP2-3. Two of those posts stand out specifically because they possess passionate entreaty about some difficult to understand contextual issues in which members of this cohort wake up to as reality every day. More to the point, the issues they raise, seem to grade against what I believe the bible teaches us about the character of God and furthermore, what He intends for humanity and the world we inhabit.
In her post last week, Joy wondered whether there was anyone who would speak up for the node of Africa? For me, her reflection was rich, poignant and pregnant with the deep thoughts that she must have long pondered in disbelief at how God could allow people to fawn over technology and lavishes upon it precious resources that many in Africa could use as their required daily sustenance. She also makes the case that many of the resources that make it possible to have such technology in the first place are being plundered from the people and the place that is being grossly neglected. Without putting words into Joy’s mouth, the underlying question appears to be, If God is truly righteous and just, how can He sit by in silence and allow such inhumane suffering?
Additionally, Sam describes his current emotional struggle over the increasing ethnic conflicts and violence in a posted he did a couple of weeks back. He writes that, “Indian Society is gradually becoming fragmented on the basis of language, culture, ethnicity and religion. Last year there was a huge uprising against the people of Bihar living in Mumbai. Again thousands of Biharis living in Mumbai had to flee and return to their native state.” He goes on to say that, “I remember the time when there was pride in India as a land of ‘unity in diversity’. Not anymore.” The theological questions here are many and are vastly perplexing. However, at the very core, they all seem to point back to God, and who is in the image of God and the behavior of man towards man in the world.
In my own context, I can tell you that I am repulsed at the racial divide that is being created by the disrespectful tone, racially colored statements as well as racially charged speech and often out right lies directed at the current President of these United States of America, Barack Obama! I am ashamed not because I am a Democrat. I am not. Nor am I a republican! But I am a child of God. And therefore, I stand amazed at how my fellow “Christians” engage in this sort of base behavior. More, I wonder why God tolerates it. So how can one do a good theological contextualization of this mess?
Grenz and Olsen here provide an immensely useful mathematical example for which one can begin to articulate a theological response to the aforementioned contexts. They state that, “the following numbers would seem to have little in common: 1/2, 1/3, 1/10, 1/15. Adding them up to get a whole number seems impossible. They go on to say that, “how it all adds up to the same God seems on the surface beyond all comprehension. However, the person trained in mathematics knows that adding the above fractions is simple: find the common denominator and translate them into 15/30, 10/30, 3/30, and 2/30. Their sum becomes 30/30, or 1.
While I do not pretend to have the perfect solution to these complex situations, I believe that scripture does provide some solace. 1John 5:14-15 reminds us “that this is the confidence we can have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, we know that he hears us. And since we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of him.” In sum, the mere fact that you ask for God to show up Joy on behalf of Africans/Africa and because the current situation is an emotional press on your heart Sam, and even the consequence of my present shame all serve as reminders that God is presently at work in our contexts. He is not silent, because he is speaking through you, he is not indifferent either Sam, because He is emoting through you!
Lastly, be prompted that, God is the great Creator of all things and therefore, He is righteous, just and equitable. God did indeed created humanity in His own image and likeness and even though we may not always see the god-like character in our fellows, continue to believe. “It is God at work in you to will and to do His good pleasure.” Phil 2:13.
Stanley J. Grenz;Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Kindle Locations 767-769). Kindle Edition.