Theology to live by

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Theology to live by

I knew a man in Christ, born in the early 1950s who initially saw theology in a selfish light. It was a body of truth that he wanted to know. He was intellectually curious about his faith and read to satisfy that curiosity. He soon encountered difference and so theology became a way of showing that he was right and others wrong. Even with the thought that knowledge is power.

Missionary work in Africa (and reading Kraft) saved him for usefulness. In his service there, he saw that theology was not a monolithic rock, or a golden brick that he had to bring and give to his African brethren so much as the unchanging Word speaking into the changing and varied world. And behold, theology became mission. An understanding grew within him that there are (as he had been) those who confuse their local, historical, personal and usually biased theology with the Word of God and so anathematise others un-necessarily. So theology for him began to be a process that brings Christians together around the Gospel instead of dividing them.

Theology for him also became more and more connected with the Christian life. He read Tozer and saw that what we believe about God determines so much of our faith and worship. He stood back amazed at Gutierrez’s critique of his un-committed northern theology and saw it anew as that which has to be driven by practical discipleship. And not just the religious bits. Kung pointed him back to Athanasius, that God’s design for our human-ness is fulfilled in the Christian, so theology undergirds every human part of our lives as well as our faith. And Wallace taught him that it has a right to speak into his society, speaking God’s desires for his world, whether we are heard or not.

And as he travelled this road, he taught it. Slowly but increasingly, he taught theology to his students as the basis for their lives. He tried to make theology speak into their use of laughter, their appreciation of beauty, their friendships and loves – things they really cared about. Forgive him lord, he even constructed a theology of good coffee! When speaking of sin, he helped students see that it can be in institutions as well as in hearts and they need to do what they can about this. He showed them that Christ’s humanity means they can dance and feast, that the Trinity, properly understood is the basis for their prayer life, that the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper despite the raging disputes, can centre their faith and life, that the catholicity of the Church means they can read Bonaventure as well as Hudson Taylor for devotional profit. That the cross means they must engage in mission.

He rested in the great conclusion that we need to do theology with an evangelical faithfulness to the Word, with an academic depth of which we do not need to be ashamed. And also as the great task which orders and enriches the lives of those to whom we speak it.

And now and then, he invites other theological educators to the same journey.

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9 Comments on “Theology to live by”

  1. Drew Gibson Says:

    I know that man!

    And another one who walked a very similar path, travelling to a very similar place and reading Gutierrez, along with Moltmann, who taught him to live in hope, Newbigin, who taught him to distinguish between culture and Gospel and Loyola who showed him discipline and an ordered life.

    I believe that both of these men are still trying to help folk in this wee part of the world, and elsewhere, to make similar journeys.

  2. jiddoboulos Says:

    I recognised this man while reading these poignant lines which summarise a magnificent journey of grace. I thank God for my journey in the company of this “man in Christ”.


  3. I know the theologian. I do agree at his transforming theology. Theology, for me too, shoul lead students to know Jesus Christ and to make him known with creative and innovative ways. Prise the Lord.

  4. PAUL COOKEY Says:

    Coincidentally, my motto in ministry: “Knowing Jesus and making Jesus known is my priority” agrees with this man’s philosophy. I do agree with him at every point of his theological journey and I humbly pray: “Lord make me more like you every day of my life” Amen!

  5. Perry W Shaw Says:

    “Teaching with integrity to one’s own person makes for great teaching.” (a vague paraphrase of Parker Palmer)

  6. Scott Cunningham Says:

    As always, Graham, I enjoy your nourishing thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

    Scott

    From: Teaching Theology <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: Teaching Theology <comment+egxq93wwg5qjk4hyekzl3o@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 3:18 AM To: Scott Cunningham <scott@overseas.org> Subject: [New post] Theology to live by

    Graham Cheesman posted: ” Theology to live by I knew a man in Christ, born in the early 1950s who initially saw theology in a selfish light. It was a body of truth that he wanted to know. He was intellectually curious about his faith and read to satisfy that curiosity. He s”

  7. KiwiAllan Says:

    Hmmm. It seems you knew/know him well, Graham. A friendship developed and deepened over coffee, too, most likely.


  8. I think I know this man, and I have thankfully enlisted on the same journey.


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