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What’s basic to Christian theology?

04 Feb


How do we work through questions like that of women’s ordination?  Experience?  Reason?  Tradition?  Scripture?  Revelation?  Below are excerpts from An Introduction to Christian Theology, which suggest what’s absolutely basic.

Reference
McIntosh, Mark.  Divine Teaching: An Introduction to Christian Theology.  Blackwell: Oxford, 2008.

Chapter 3       Divine Teaching and Christian Beliefs, 31-54,
P46   … doctrines are not ends in themselves

P50  … if it is really God that theology is trying to understand, and it is really God who is inciting the search, then we  should be able to recognize something good and perhaps even something holy developing in the character of those who are being genuinely and authentically theological.  What I’m suggesting, then, is a test for theological legitimacy and integrity that does not predetermine the forms of thought in which theologians venture out, but rather examines the kind of persons their theological journeys make of them.

P51  … the chief critical measure of [Christian theology’s] health and legitimacy would be found, not first of all in the domain of rational argument, but in the domain of its moral and spiritual influence within the lives of believers.  … it is … possible to assess someone’s ideas at second hand, so to speak, by noticing what impact they have on the person’s life.

P52  We should expect that those whose beliefs carry them into encounters with the reality of God will manifest signs that they are animated by love and humility in their bearing:

Pp52,53  [John Henry Newman (1801-90) Fifteen Sermons preached before the University of Oxford (University Sermons), 3rd edn., Sermon XII. 27, pp.240-1. wrote]: “I say the principle of Love, acting not by way of inquiry or argument, but spontaneously and as an instinct will cause the mind to recoil from cruelty, impurity, and assumption of divine power” to itself.

Just as Newman sees positive signs by which to discern healthy faith, so he also develops negative criteria for identifying a form of faith that is not truly conducting one into a deeper relationship with the living God. We’ve already seen the implicit hints that a tendency towards cruelty and a mock-divine self-importance are lively marks of an unhealthy faith.  The central idea for Newman here is, again, relationship:  apart from the stretching, life-giving growth that authentic, faithful relationship with God makes possible, the human person hardens into a self-concerned caricature of itself, falling into an unattractive narrow-mindedness that insists on the conformity of all ideas to its own.

Submitted by Pichi

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