I’ve joined a lively little discussion on the very word “theology” especially in the context of churches and Christians in Malaysia. Looks like the conversation might continue for a while, unless we’ve drained ourselves our :-P But for now, I’ve decided to repost the conversations up to the minute.
Kar Yong Why is it that the very word “theology” seems to sound so negative in our churches today?
about an hour ago · Comment · Like
A bad sign…What context do you find this?
about an hour ago
Jason, this is from my context in Malaysia. Been preaching in a number of evangelical churches for past few years, and I always find myself defending why theology is important. Many church leaders and pastors (especially those without any theological training) seems to have rather negative perception on seminaries/theological colleges.
about an hour ago
I think there is some in common then, between Malaysia and the US. In teaching, I find that I need to make the case for why (and in what ways) theology is important. It’s not bad with most of my students, but I have a sense that there is a widespread sense of theology not being ‘practical’ and therefore not being important. We have work to do!
56 minutes ago
it’s all those … comments like … “I’m not into theology, but into what’s practical” .. “It’s not the head, but the heart that matters” … and then the over-reaction of well meaning efforts like “let my people think” (which implies other people don’t) etc. which IMHO feeds into unnecessary polarities.
the issue our “uncomfortable with theology” (and it’s institutional expressions) friends need to realize is that, the moment we mention God .. it’s theology. The question is what is the effect of our theology on our lives, and vice versa, what does the way we live show us about the theology we hold.
55 minutes ago ·
@Jason, Amen, amen!
49 minutes ago
Kar Yong, one reason that I am convinced is true is because these Protestant independent church leaders are afraid of the implication of theology. The academic as well as the praxis of theology overwhelm many of them. They want to retain their superior Christian leadership and hence they will sometime ridicule ‘theologian’ and ‘biblical scholars’ on the pulpit. They usually do so without naming the theologian or biblical scholar who disagree with them. They just ridicule these vocations so that they can plant into the congregation head that these people are unreliable. In the end, the congregation will buy their ridicule and start despising the vocations. In this way, the church leaders can retain their authority as the ‘sole’ source of teaching and praxis. Hence they can manage the congregation however their gut-feel tells them. For eg. build big and grand church building by invoking God’s vision for them, etc.
This is especially so among those who are not theologically trained.
48 minutes ago
@Sivin, may I add – study theology will make you lose your spiritual zeal, make you question the bible and your faith, lead you to become a liberal.
How can one focus on what is “practical” without having a firm understanding of “theology”?
47 minutes ago
Perhaps, church leaders and pastors have a wrong perception of seminaries. They might think that these are places where strange and liberal doctrines are conceived to challenge the orthodox beliefs of the church. Another argument is always about the practicality of theological teaching. Perhaps, we are at fault here because not everyone who is theologically trained could convey the gems learned in a way that is both comprehensible and relevant (practical). Perhaps the discourse we use is far too different from the language of common folks. My 2 cents.
46 minutes ago
Kar Yong, oh dear … what if it helped me cultivate a longer term slow burning zeal? Opps, it helped me questioned my mental idols, and reengaged Scripture? My faith got deconstruction (not destroyed) and then reconstructed by the Spirit? And then, I’m more liberal on what are less essentials and then love the Triune God deeper?
the dichotomy of practical and theology is a false one. Drop it, and we’re free.
for those in transition, a good dose of recent “Practical Theology” will knock some sense into us.
On the other hand, those who value theology need to loosen up and not appear so stiff-lah ðŸ™‚
43 minutes ago ·
sounds like ivory tower to me and as you know ivory is illegal
37 minutes ago
@Joshua … perhaps theological studies lead to subjectivity and this translates as uncertainty to pastors and church leaders. This might cause unease and even fear, both for their flocks and maybe themselves as well. To pastors and church leaders, confidence in themselves and having the confidence of their flocks are necessary to maintain control of their loyalty and the certainty of their faith. Thus, we will often hear such phrases. “Don’t think too much, it causes doubts. Just believe and have simple faith!”
34 minutes ago
Joshua, the question of power is indeed a real one. But it goes both ways of course, when academic inclined theologians appear to despise simple faith the reaction is understandable. Unfortunately, all of us get dragged into increasingly to me to be a futile debate and dichotomy on theology and praxis. But I guess, we always start where people are in the discussion.
Israel, you’ve raised some legitimate observations. Sadly, for many the dichotomy of subjectivity and objectivity is the same trap that plaques theology/praxis.
Phrases like ” “Don’t think too much, it causes doubts. Just believe and have simple faith!” is one of the most damaging and dis-empowering advice we could give anyone. And yet, it’s being drilled so often without considering the long term implications.
For starters, we need to change the way we talk. Drop cliches and slogans. Or revisit them, unpack them and encourage a truly “Biblical faith” which is found in Scripture. If anyone wants to be a TRUE evangelical or Bible based Christian, they need to wrestle through the book of Job and Ecclesiastes. And the parables and conversations of Jesus in the synoptics and especially the Gospel of John (hope Kar Yong is happy I mention the NT). ðŸ™‚
It’s sad to see so many Christians who were set free by Jesus, imprisoned by hurtful theology (even in the name of “orthodoxy”)
22 minutes ago ·
@Israel, that reminds me of the pastor who was preaching on that Sunday years ago at Wesley Methodist Church at Butterworth, Penang. He told us to put our “rational mind” and “logic” on the door before coming into the church. Too bad at that time, I hasn’t stop blogging! If not, I would have achieved that.
21 minutes ago
My impression is that our congregations do not want the solid theological stuff.They want sound bites. They want the how to applications esp. how to get rich, be healthy and not to commit to anything – all an antithesis to theology.
16 minutes ago
@Israel, correction: I haven’t START blogging! If not, I would have achieved that.
11 minutes ago
@Sivin … yes, the dichotomy between doctrine/theory and praxis is a false one. But just like action researchers (who combines both in informed practice) in the field of sociology, we find it difficult to convey this because of the ingrained tradition of separating these two areas. In the academia, the researcher must always be distant from thesubjects to maintain so-called objectivity. Thus creating the gap that all theoretical findings are for knowledge creation only, instead of improving the practice or situation of the subjects which is what action researchers do.
9 minutes ago
@Josh .. ‘archived’ you mean? ðŸ˜›
8 minutes ago
Would the alternate term “doctrine” have a better response?
BTW. last year, we ran a seminar on basic theology and the lecturer wisely asked me to leave out the word “theology” and insert it with “worldview”. It was about theology of course … ðŸ™‚
10 minutes ago
Israel, I think we do not need to ignore the “traditions” of inquiry which I agree with you is part and parcel of the process and discussion. There is a place for that, and there will be some of us engaged in it at some level.
What I would be advocating is while not ignoring that dimension, fresh ways of approaching the topic of our concern in this case the place of theology in the mind of the Christian community in general. I would be challenging us to reconsider our own mindsets on this discussion on theology and how in one’s advocacy for healthier integration of theology and praxis we avoid talking amongst ourselves for therapy and really do something with and for people.
On one hand, we’re talking about “theology”. Perhaps, in our own practice, we can focus on on doing theology in a way that is faithfully theological without coming across as “ivory” and “stuffy”. I see it in so called “liberal” circles, I see it in so called “conservative” circles. And we’re just going round in circles. Maybe someone should just stop and ask, why are we going on in circles.
3 minutes ago