Monthly Archives: January 2011

What good is theology anyway? A Pastor-Theologian Rant

This link is one of my personal axes.

Melville in Moby Dick writes…

What could be more full of meaning?- for the pulpit is ever this earth’s foremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair or foul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

Now ask yourself when that was last true?

The life of theology is in the pulpit, is in proclamation. If you can’t go proclaim it to God’s people, than it lacks the life giving Spirit. It isn’t the WORD.

There are all kinds of problems: 1) too many Pastors afraid of scaring away what flock they have with deep stuff and so staying in safe calm waters. 2) too many theologians looking for those calm waters in the rarefied air of academic safety. 3) too many itching-ears wanting to hear safe platitudes and forecasts of peaceful waters.

The WORD creates things. It calls people to change (Repent, for the Kingdom is here). It asks people to believe what is not immediately evident. The WORD is dangerous. We arbitrage risk. We insure for risk. We manage risk. Our danger is simulated – bungee cords, roller coasters, cliched rebellion, practicing theology where it doesn’t mean anything directly. When the church is open to danger. When the church has ears to hear the call to pick up the cross and walk toward danger because that is where the Spirit is blowing, then we might find pastor-theologians again. Until then, we will have safe and tame theology.

I’m all for Pastor-Theologians. But the first step is theologians giving up the safety of credentials and the academy for the the church. This guy is a great example.

What you find in a run on sentence…


Full Text

Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

Being a Protestant and being a Lutheran Protestant basically means I’m a follower of Christ with Pauline eyes. Most Lutheran ministers would probably point at Romans as there “go to” text. When I collapse back to basics, I go to Ephesians. (I know, all you higher critics laughing about the pseudo-Pauline Pauline. And you friends laughing about when did he ever get past the basics or who let him out of confirmation class.)

Paul is logical, but really that is secondary. Paul is primarily a mystic. Those great chapters in Romans 7 – 11 are similar, but I think we often let the logic roll over the mystic. Paul tells us we have all the spiritual blessings in heaven, and he tells us what those are: 1) standing spotless and 2) adoption into God’s family. But then we press for surety of this, because let’s be blunt, right now we don’t see our spotless garment nor does any government recognize our adoption certificate. And Paul’s surety – we have the spirit. Logically, its a circular argument. Its a mystical argument. In baptism you have the Spirit. God has promised. God keeps his promises.

Also Paul wonders into predestination like those Roman’s chapters, but the predestination here to me is clearer. We are predestined in Christ. We receive our eternal status because we are joined to the eternal one. And this is because all things are moving toward unity in Him. We are being conformed to the likeness of Christ. You don’t get more mystical than that.

And that causes trouble with the logical world. You either get it, or you don’t. It also causes all kinds of trouble in the church. Because we are all being conformed at different rates and paces and on different paths. Just when the church wants to say this is the path, the Spirit seems to blow in a different way. Mystics and dogmatics don’t get along well. Dogma is often the worn path of the mystic. To be a Pauline Christian, to be a Lutheran, is to maintain that tension between the dogmatic better way and the Spirit led path. All the time resting secure in our adoption. Knowing that God’s grace has us covered with all the spiritual gifts of heaven that matter – primarily forgiveness for those “Spirit paths” that are actually detours.