Post-Theology?

I’ve come to a point in my own spirituality where I feel weary of Theology. 

This is something very new for me. I’ve enjoyed engaging in theological study for well over a decade now. Up until now I’ve always learned something new, or have been given some new insight into the Divine. 

Now, suddenly, I find it all quite distasteful. 

Give me a Bible, a notebook, a pen, and several hours of quiet solitude, and I will return a renewed and refreshed creature. That much has not changed. What has changed is my having a near total lack of desire to fit spiritual things newly revealed into any system of thought/belief. Or, in other words, I no longer find myself concerned over personal theology. 

Gasp!

How could this happen?

Isn’t good theology essential to faith?!

I’m not so sure.

I’m beginning to see that belief in Christ trumps any and all beliefs I develop about Christ. Essentially, what remains of my theology asserts that a relationship with God in and through Christ is the purpose of our existence. So, it follows that in entering into that relationship and developing a knowledge of God in and through that relationship, a personal theology becomes increasingly obsolete. And, such theological waxing feels borderline disrespectful of the One so far above my ability to wholly and accurately  represent in word or deed. 

The more I experience of God, and the more I grow in Him, the more frightened I become of misrepresenting Him. It’s not a fear of a reprisal on God’s part, but a fear rooted in an ever deepening affection for the Persons of God. I would rather die than say something that would create a stumbling block for others seeking Him. Like, for reals. God is that cool.

Then I ran across this passage in my devotions:

“Love never ends. But as far as prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.”

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NRSV, boldface mine)

Did you see it? How St. Paul emphasizes the enduring nature of Love while pointing to the passing nature and incompleteness of the other ways we understand and worship God?

Of course, earlier in this chapter St. Paul expounds upon the nature of Divine love, αγάπη. Αγάπη, the Greek word for the highest form of love, is the love of God for humankind, and the love we are intended to develop for God. But, wait, there’s more:

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I am fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NRSV, boldface mine)

 

St. Paul elevates αγάπη above even faith and hope. That’s right, this love from and for God transcends  my faith in God and any hope I have in Him.

That’s heavy stuff. Especially for a well-churched gal like myself. 

Maybe my recent falling out with Theology isn’t a bad thing, but a good thing. Maybe I’ve finally stumbled into that “one thing” that Jesus spoke of in Luke 10:41-42. If that’s the case, I’m fine letting go of the rest. It means that I have the “better part”– that which will not pass away nor can ever be taken away from me.

I guess this makes me post-theological? Is that a thing? Well, it is now! 

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40 thoughts on “Post-Theology?

    1. I disagree. I read the Bible to engage the Holy Spirit… to “hear” from God, to commune. No longer to study Him as a mere subject external to me;)

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      1. In actuality, intellectual pursuits can ONLY work when something is not us or of us. The very term “Theology” is roughly translated from its Greek form as reasoned discourse concerning God. It cares not of one’s experience of God. That is another branch entirely! The experience of God is mysticism. And, western, post-enlightenment Theology tends to discount its validity and its necessity because its nature is irrational– not reasonable.

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      2. Maybe you’re like many other Christians–you always considered yourself more of a theologian, when in fact, Theology itself would cast you as a Mystic. No worries though, St. Paul says those labels don’t really matter;)

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      3. Perhaps this is outside of your own experience…I’m speaking of the academic branch of Theology. Theology in this regard likely differs from how you personally define theology. I’m gathering from this conversation that it differs greatly.

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      4. In a way, it’s a cogent demonstration of why knowledge must pass away… human beings can get stuck in defining things and making distinctions that really do not matter on a timeline of eternity:)

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      5. Well not that much. I do understand what you say about the academic study of theology. I practice that. I also understand what you say about relationship. I practice that as well. Sometimes i do one while starting out to do the other!

        Academics can and do have a relationship as strong as any. Many with a great relationship know nothing from any book but The Book

        There’s just not necessarily a line of division

        😊

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      6. Wally, as someone that has studied Theology at a graduate level, I can tell you there is a difference and the two are separated. In relationship, in pursuing knowledge of God for the intent of relationship, there are no rules or bounds. Just my own personal limits and whatever limits God hedges me in with. On an academic level, I have to be able to put spiritual knowledge into words and skillfully assert logical conclusions, then defend those conclusions upon further scrutiny. It’s about being right, not about the discovery of transcendent truth, nor about knowing God in the depths of my soul.

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    2. To take it further, can we truly study anyone and simultaneously enter fully into relationship with them? The kind of objective posture we take when seriously studying someone or something is compromised in relationship… it some fields, it is even considered unethical, as our objectivity is undermined by our connection. If that is the case with God, then my objectivity has been fully compromised. And I’m content to remain compromised in this way!

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      1. Aww lol you’re really very intelligent. You’re one of the few bloggers than think before they post and contribute positive, honest things. You never hide your humanity behind Scripture but you have strong faith. That’s an admirable and rare quality. If there were more Christian bloggers of your caliber, the internet would be a better place for us 😛 Don’t stop blogging, you have good things to share!

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      2. Rae, I sincerely appreciate your encouragement and the positive feedback. It means so much to me!
        I’ve been taking a very prayerful approach with this blog over the past several months. It started out as a soapbox for a raw and rejected soul fighting tooth and nail to keep her faith through trial. Now, I’m not quite sure where the Spirit will take it. But when I get feedback like yours, I’m assured that He is indeed using it. And that’s all that I pray for:)

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      3. He definitely is working through your blog. I knew it because I didn’t plan on making a list of blogs I like. But I just felt moved to link to yours. I included a few others, but mostly I wanted to share with people your blog because you really do have a talent for expressing the love of the Lord in a way people can relate to. So please, don’t ever think your work is for naught. God has a plan for you and others can benefit from your insight.

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  1. I’m afraid that many people have embraced theological systems over the relationship with Christ to which the Holy Spirit calls us. I have so many friends who now despise the words “theology” and “doctrine” because they have become manmade systems. I have long been over the school of thought that says “this is what I have been taught” or “these are the tenets of our denomination”. What about “this is what the Bible says”? I’ll go for that!

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    1. Sometimes I cringe when people tell “this is what the Bible says!” After reading it and returning to it regularly since the time my reading skills first allowed (age 7 I believe) I know much of what it says… what interests me the most now, is what does it mean for us in this time and place? Especially murkier passages like the ones on marriage and divorce. We live in a different time and place than that within which Scripture was written. I think that matters. How we interpret it matters, and Whom we interpret it through and for matters greatly.

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      1. I wish it wasn’t even a point I felt compelled to make. I wish that Scripture wasn’t used and abused by those seeking power and control over others. It hurts my heart that this happens within Christianity. Having to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves is hard work. It offends my sensibilities as a child of God, lol! And yet I see its necessity:-/

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  2. I think that’s a big part of what I’m seeing in you – not necessarily that theology is useless, but sort of pointless when removed from relationship, and ultimately any systematic theology has to be scrubbed of personal relationship in order to be considered truly systematic. There are, of course, basic exceptions, but I’ve come to believe those exceptions are summed up in the creeds. Once you move beyond the Nicene creed, I think you’re in murky waters. And I believe the passages you mentioned, along with others, tell us not to try to force others into our specific understanding of God, again, beyond the basics.

    https://adamdesmond.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/we-are-all-wrong/

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    1. Yes!

      I agree with you on the importance of the creeds. As we move further away from our places of agreement, we lose sight of the Body’s intended unity in the Spirit. Unity in diversity is a tall order, I know! But I do believe it is possible. And relationship is key.

      Reason is great. Often times I am grateful for a strong intellect, but other times I see how useless it is in affecting true community. The mind is to serve us, not enslave us in provoking disagreements over peripheral matters. But when it is given free reign, it only leads us into conflict with others, and even ourselves, lol!
      Have you ventured into reading Thomas Merton yet? I’m beginning to develop a very Roman Catholic opinion on the intellect. It needs to be disciplined. Something I’ve found Tozer understands as well.

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      1. As you know, I’m a Merton fan. The hubby bought that book for me for my birthday two years ago. It’s not among my favorites… but I guess it inspired many men to enter into the priesthood, lol!

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      2. Perhaps what is most frightening to me is the realization that I’m very conservative in my own faith, but extremely liberal when it comes to considering and responding to the faith of others. I don’t know when that happened, but I’ve just going with it because it seems to be where God is leading me. Needless to say, finding a new church home is proving to be difficult. I think finding a mature congregation is a necessity. But that’s a tall order too these days…

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    1. I am, unfortunately, a product of my time and place… and my definition of Theology is necessarily a reflection of that. Perhaps it would be more clarifying to state Im arguing for a post-Theology perspective from my experience of Theology today, and not Theology as it has been understood in the past?

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      1. Or, you are arguing for an expanded understanding of theology, and until people recognize personal experience (visions, dreams, Holy Spirit’s words, etc) as well as our Sacred Scriptures as sources for theological discourse and understanding, you will oppose the use of the word “theology.” Yes, for about 98% of those who say “theology” it means the modern term of “doctrines.” I have grown closer to the Lord by studying theology, so it is hard for me to be “post-theology” as a whole, but I am against boxes being so rigid that God becomes simply academic. But with theology being a compound word of θεος + λογου meaning “words of/ about God” the term itself is too neutral to be for or against it, but one can be against most practices.
        But, please do not view me as “trolling.” I pray that God brings all of us closer to Him, through prayer, communion with other believers, reading the words of other believers (whether dead or alive), and through dreams and visions 🙂

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      2. Likely it’s against the practice of today’s Theology proper in its tendency to discount the mystical in favor of the logical, and its sole reliance upon reason in its pursuit of knowledge, resulting in a frightening rejection of the intuitive. As if God was completely logical and accessible only in rational terms!

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      3. When we are talking of the experience of God, we are in actuality entering into relationship with God, and already have begun to depart from the necessarily objective, detached study of the social scientist;)

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