Theology as a Redemptive Activity

The effort to understand and articulate the way in which the Creator is gloriously right both to have made the world in the first place and to have redeemed it in just this way is itself part of the stewardly vocation of genuine human existence, bringing God’s order into the minds and hearts of others and thereby enabling people both to worship the true God and to serve his continuing purposes.”… As Wright says, it’s part of being an image-bearing steward over creation; it’s part of being genuinely human; it’s part of bringing God’s order into creation by helping others reshape and reimagine Godward reflection and worship properly in their minds and hearts.

In Evil and the Justice of God, NT Wright states:

“This, by the way, is why genuine Christian theology is itself a redemptive activity. The effort to understand and articulate the way in which the Creator is gloriously right both to have made the world in the first place and to have redeemed it in just this way is itself part of the stewardly vocation of genuine human existence, bringing God’s order into the minds and hearts of others and thereby enabling people both to worship the true God and to serve his continuing purposes.”

Recently, I’ve been thinking about theology more as art than as science, despite the “-ology” at the end of the word. Art is creative. It expresses its creator and invites people to participate by viewing and reflection. In this light, art becomes a communal activity. We observe this in popular forms like movies. Someone at a party may ask, “Have you seen this movie?” and the reply may be, “Oh my gosh, yes! What a great movie!” And a kind of community is formed for that moment. Even if the people involved in the conversation have very different views of the movie, a form of community is formed through the discussion.

Genuine theology has a similar function. And it’s not just the specialized function of those in certain Christian roles. Like art, everyone can participate in some form. Everyone engages in theology — thinking and reflecting about God, his person and his work. And every Christian, redeemed and welcomed into Jesus’ family, should be engaging in Christian theology. As Wright says, it’s part of being an image-bearing steward over creation; it’s part of being genuinely human; it’s part of bringing God’s order into creation by helping others reshape and reimagine Godward reflection and worship properly in their minds and hearts.

This is one of the primary reasons why I love our Thursday night meetings in our faith-community. Everyone takes turns sharing the responsibility of facilitating discussion. And while some do it with “fear and trembling,” it is always a wonderful exercise for the group. We may not always articulate our thoughts clearly. We may not always understand one another. We may not always agree with one another. Yet, virtually every Thursday I leave with some sort of fresh perspective, an ember of Christian reflection stoked into greater heat and brightness by someone else’s contribution. By doing theology together, I think we are doing the tough, but essential work of spurring one another on toward greater love.

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