Sunday, September 19, 2010

What is the most urgent theological task for this generation?

I have just come across a quote that begins: "In fact, the most urgent theological task for this generation may well be...". Before I post the full quote, I'd love to hear how you would finish that sentence.


michael jensen said... avoid pronouncements about the most urgent theological task?

besideourselves said... rescue Evangelical Christianity from it's rapid descent into folk-religion.

Or; to provide a robust Christian alternative to the Evangelical folk-religion.

Take your pick.

gbroughto said...

tend to agree with Mike...

the description of 'most urgent' combined with 'for a generation' is the problem.

But it raises the more interesting possibility that much of our theological work is looking to fix the past or anticipate the future. Theology that is for 'this generation' can tend toward the trivial and/or fleeting (e.g. in some quarters - and I put my hand up here as guilty of doing this - a lot of energy has been expended in theological reflection on popular culture and most of it is already proving to be fleeting while far too much of what has been produced was trivial).

How do we address the tasks that genuinely are for this generation to engage? There is some urgency in finding wisdom on this matter...

Mike W said...


Highanddry said...

I keep running into conversations between the within of the church and the without of whatever you want to call 'not the church', to do with who has a claim to 'the Truth'.

So for me, right at this moment..."the most urgent theological task for this generation may well be..."how are we to proclaim 'the Truth' when the very notion has become suspicious.

Anthony Douglas said... asking the year in which the quote was made!

byron smith said...

Anthony - Astute question. The answer is 2009.

I'm noting quite a bit of resistance to the idea of urgency in theology (e.g. MPJ & Geoff, maybe Mike W), or perhaps even of differing priorities in differing historical (and perhaps social) contexts. Am I right in thinking that people really reject the idea that doing some theological tasks are more important than others or that these priorities might shift over time? The fact that something is most urgent doesn't mean other things are not also worth doing, simply that some things may carry more weight at a particular time. Of course, judgements on how to prioritise may vary (as will the criteria for making such a call), but isn't this still a conversation worth having? Or is the issue (as Geoff seems to imply) that no single issue could ever so dominate a particular generation as to be characterised as most urgent for this generation? To put it another way, how do you go about deciding what theological tasks ought to be done first and which will be put on the back-burner?

To raise a much used example, but one that still illustrates the issue: would it have made sense to ask the German church in 1935 what the most urgent theological task for its generation was?

Donna said...

... convincing others that action on climate change is a theological task?

I'd be interested to know if someone did ask the German church that, I assume their answers would have been varied.

Jason said...

Byron - On this topic Jean-Yves Lacoste's article "More Haste, Less Speed in Theology" in the International Journal of Systematic Theology 9:3 (July 2007) is quite instructive.

"Philosophy requires patience; theology differs from philosophy by its haste. Theological language lives urgently, under kerygmatic constraints, and yet is allowed delay for its tasks of interpretation...."

Anthony Douglas said...

I'll stick my neck out. I think this kind of question is valid. As far as I can see, it's really a question of whether theology is necessarily always an ivory tower exercise, or whether it can be responsive to where the world is at in any given period.

Sure, it's begging for lame, unthought-out knee-jerk answers, but just because people give dumb answers to good questions doesn't invalidate the question. If that were the case, theology itself would be pointless.

So now it's time to guess whether the quote Byron found is an unthought-out knee-jerk answer or not!

If it is, then I'll guess it was something to do with changing communication due to the whole interweb thingy. I dunno, I think people still interact in the same kind of ways we've always done, so while there's work to be done here, I think it's been overstated.

In the thought-out category...hmm. I wonder if it wasn't just enviro-ethics, but something about the way the global questions now address the world rather than nation-states, and how that intersects with the one-kingdom-of-Christ-in-this-world fellowship of believers. There's potential there for some very blurry lines and resultant confusion in theology, I would think.

But I'd answer with a straight bat: keep proclaiming the gospel. If that ain't theological, then I'm a monkey's uncle, and I don't want to be that rude to my nephews. They're close...but I'm pretty sure it's human DNA!

Josh Luton said... seek to live as Christians in the context of religious pluralism without demeaning "the other" but rather being continually formed into the image of Christ. An image that does not seek its own gain, power, or prestige, but seeks to love those who are at the margins of society, whether socio-economically, religiously, or otherwise.

byron smith said...

Thanks Anthony for sticking your neck out (and for the others who have as well). I will post the full quote tomorrow if I get a chance. I would have done so today but didn't had the book with me and didn't have the time to get it again.

Ian Packer said...

"... to learn to read through a whole book, maybe twice, especially one written prior to 1500."