One of the leading theologians of the denomination to which I belong reflected that our movement has traditionally preferred exclamation marks to question marks. This has certainly been my experience. I feel like I have grown up in a church full of exclamation marks, that has focused very much on experience and the heart, but has not always been good at asking questions, or been overly developed in matters of the mind. The whole concept of “folk theology” that the authors referenced is something that I recognise and very much concur with.
Folk theology “encourages gullibility, vicarious spirituality and simplistic answers to difficult dilemmas that arise from being followers of Jesus Christ in a largely secular and pagan world.” (29)
This book therefore resonated very strongly with me and actually reflects my direction of travel with my research into the origins, foundations and beliefs of my 100-year-old denomination and how these speak to the culture that we live in today.
“start with your own church’s founder(s). Where did your denomination originate? Why did it begin? What theological impulses shaped its beginnings? What about today?” (144)
These are very much the questions that I am asking.
The book takes us back to that word again: “reflective”, as the authors encourage us to triangulate the three areas of biblical teaching, Christian heritage, and current culture. Good theology will marry the three and address the concerns of each of these sources. It is true to the biblical source and provides an integrative framework of understanding. It takes into account the rich heritage of the church and hundreds of years of Christian thinking, theological debate and creedal statements. And it speaks to the culture and context in which we live and move today. This is not easy, but it is vitally important, as we develop an approach of thinking and theologising critically and constructively.
I found the conceptual and historical overviews in the book helpful and insightful, I enjoyed the consideration of the different categories of dogma, doctrine and opinion, and I appreciated the challenge to live out our theology in everyday life and ministry.
In a denomination that leans heavily on experience and feeling, I particularly agreed with the need for rich and substantial theological understanding to anchor us in our faith when the feelings are absent and tough times abound. The artesian wells of biblical truth and good theology in our lives are absolutely vital at such times, and I want to develop and nurture those wells in my own life, and in the life of those that I lead or influence.