It was a rich experience to interact with the members of this cohort in Korea regarding their engagemnent in this dmin journey. What is the motive for engaging such punishment?!?! What is the intended life outcome? What will the dmin journey contribute to life after the journey is over? What questions will be answered? What questions will be raised? Each person related to the above in uniquely different ways. I anticipate that this cohort will make meaningful contributions to theology and to the various ministries they represent!
Near the end of his book David J. Ford poses five important questions facing theology in the next millenium. In the introduction of his fifth question he states, “Presupposed in the previous questions about the central subject-matter of theology, its responsibilities, institutions, and dialogues, is the person of the theologian. The third millennium’s theology will obviously be shaped by those who do it, including perhaps the reader of this book.” My first reaction to this question, before I read the following paragraph, was one of alarm.
I am very alarmed by the trajectory of most academies regarding their approach to theology. I agree with Ford that the best practice of striking a balance of responsibility to the global academic community, to the religious community, and to the society in general is very important. It does not seem that many academic institutions diligently work to acheive that balance. The unbalance skews the theological discipline in whatever way the local academic community leans. Basically, the theological task ends up close to one of the two extreme types, first or fifth, in Frei’s continuim.
In the public institutions in America there is a strong bent towards meeting the responsibility to the academic community with very little, if any, interaction with the religious community. Some interaction takes place with society at large but in those engagements the representatives of the academy are usually active and those representing society are passive. The academy becomes the teller and society the listener.
Why is this happening? One possible reason is the move away from a worldview that is at least closer to that which might be called a Biblical worldview. More do not operate from that vantage point and less do. I think there is another contributing factor. I think the church has failed to work hard to assist believers to become good theologians which in turn has produced a church that is unprepared to engage in critical thinking and theological discussion. In the face of challenge, the church has retreated in fear and allowed the academy to move forward without their input.
This sentiment was captured by Ford, “there is often among religious people massive suspicion of academic education, especially when it has theological content. This makes theological responsibility towards them often a risky matter, especially when it requires public discussion of controversial matters.”
I mentioned earlier that I was at first alarmed by Ford’s question as to who would do theology. But the author reminds us that Jesus, the author and perfector of faith (Heb. 12:2) will do theology! And He invites us to join Him to do theology! My alarm was replaced with the confidence that God will continue to speak to His people and reveal Himself so that theology is accomplished to glorify Himself.
The five questions in the last chapter are good questions and provide fertile soil for critical thinking. I have already touched on the last question. Questions three is also of interest to me, “How can academic institutions be shaped so as to serve their threefold responsibility?” This is a mine field with little intellectual empathy and lots of arrogance on both sides and much distrust enimating from the church.
The church must take the first step and it must sustain the pursuit. It must find ways to establish trust relationships with the academy and society resulting in constructive dialogue. It will be interesting to see the various ways that will happen. Do you know of instances of such activity?
Ford, David (2000-02-24). Theology: A Very Short Introduction (p. 174). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.