How should I explain my theology?

For better or for worse, I find blogs tend to be a lot less systematic and a lot more situational than books. Like many other bloggers I find many of my posts here are inspired by events in my life, my communities and my conversations with others, both online and offline. But in the interests of confidentiality I rarely make explicit reference to them. I look for what is universal in my particular circumstances and let my writing flow from that.

Because of this, readers could be forgiven for failing to find any common threads in my theology. Particularly since I draw inspiration from so many sources – Evangelicalism, Anabaptism, Orthodoxy, Daoism and Esotericism, just to name a few.

But as I reflect on my writings, meditative journeys and artistic interests, I think there are common threads. In particular, I see immense significance in (1) the particularity of Jesus and (2) the paradox of Jesus.

The particularity of Jesus

I have believed in God a lot longer than I have accepted Jesus as Messiah. I did not come to Christianity by way of Atheism, but by way of New Age pantheism. But now that I do accept Jesus as Messiah (and God as Christlike) I place that affirmation at the centre of my actions and reflections. I have never studied Barth but I think it would be fair to say there is more than a touch of neo-orthodoxy about my approach. I do not reject natural theology as Barth did, but I very much subordinate it to my Christology. I affirm that all good theology, teaching and preaching should relate back to Jesus and the resurrection. I am not particularly impressed by theology grounded more generically in the “attributes of God” or the “power of the Spirit” when abstracted from their narrative context. Such thinking is too close to deism for my liking. The attribute of sovereignty, for instance, cannot be properly understood, I think, if it is not directly taken from the kind of power Jesus exercised as he died on the cross. Where it was exclaimed by a centurion: “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Which leads me to my next point.

The paradox of Jesus

I have an enduring fascination with paradox, word play and juxtaposition. I suspect it is what drew me to Zen and Daoism in my pre-Christian journeys, and why I’m now drawn to Ecclesiastes and Job in the Old Testament. It is certainly one of the reasons why I find Jesus such a fascinating character. Jesus is the wise fool, the servant king, the wounded healer. In contrast to many evangelical preachers today, rather than boiling down his teaching into a 5 point sermon, he was often deliberately obscure and enigmatic and boundary transgressing. He drew people into conversation, he fired their imaginations, he got them thinking. He presents us with a Theos who cannot be nailed down by our theologies. That’s the sort of God I can worship as God.

These twin threads are behind many of my interests, in art, culture and religion. I like to juxtapose images, lines of thinking, rituals and experiences in the way of my God. I like to explore where the Word has left traces of transcendence in the world. I don’t like to be bound by traditions which were themselves founded on minor points of difference with other traditions. I doubt much of this is novel. But from my experience with world Christianity I don’t find many traditions emphasizing these things, especially the second, to the degree I do. The proof is most visible in the art. Maybe some of you see yourselves on a similar journey. Either way, I’d be interested to hear if any of this stimulates your own thinking.

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