In too many ways to get into, theology has been detached from Christian practice. This is tragic, since theology is critical reflection on what we’re doing as followers of Jesus. It isn’t an abstract pursuit for its own sake without any practical payoff.
Bruce Longenecker nicely captures the relationship of theological language to the flourishing of God’s people.
Paul’s theology is perhaps best grasped by taking account of the social function of his theological language, arguments, and concepts—all of which are intended to foster a cruciform ethos and practice within his communities. Things like Paul’s doctrine (so-called) of ‘justification by faith’, terms such as ‘redemption’ or ‘in Christ’, and salvific models such as ‘participation’ or ‘sacrifice’ are all to be translated into a distinctive personal and corporate lifestyle within the Christian communities spread throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Concern to nurture that distinctiveness of Christian identity is what unites the Pauline corpus in a way that no doctrine or motif does. And Paul would no doubt assume that the same transformed identity should be the hallmark of Christians throughout the world and years, as the character of Christ is continuously replicated and embodied within the individual lives and corporate life of his people (The Triumph of Abraham’s God, pp. 187-88).
2 thoughts on “Theology & Community Flourishing”
My NT theology professor used to tell us, “Theology is what you live out when you first get your feet out of bed. You will live out whatever theology you personally hold, not necessarily the one you profess.”
Paul was radically transformed by his Damascus road experience. Many of us, have only given mental assent to some Christian ideas, but our hearts have not been “pierced” by the Truth of the Suffering Servant, and his call to join in his suffering that we might join his resurrection and the restoration of all things. I find myself daily realizing areas where I have not put to death the works of the flesh. Instead, I often live out what our christian culture has accepted as good christian behavior, even though it is far removed from the theology of a suffering God, rescuing his broken world. We have created systems of thinking and acting that support our failure to truly come to grips with the cross. And for that reason, we seldom experience the power of the resurrection.
It has been difficult for me to find some people who will help me experience the cross in my life. Most seem to think that I’m not “walking in the victory of Christ.” But that’s just the point, I want to walk in the victory of Christ, but to do so, I have to join in his suffering first.
Great post. I’m personally benefitting a great deal from the topics you’re bringing up for discussion, and from some of the other comments. Thanks for providing a forum for this.
Grace and Peace,