Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Belated Anniversary, With Explanations: Why Resident Theology?

The title of the blog is relatively straightforward. Anyone familiar with Stanley Hauerwas's most popular work, Resident Aliens, will catch the resemblance. Beyond that, along with my desire to have "theology" in the title (good for Google searches? I don't know), the reason is twofold.

First, to make abundantly clear that what I am not about on this blog is disembodied, conceptually abstract, esoteric jargon intended for philosophical geniuses who have nothing better to do than to sit around and think about matters that have no bearing on life as it is lived by everyday human beings. The church, while a sojourning community and not ultimately at home in this world, does simultaneously -- like the Israelites in exile in Babylon or dispersed among the nations -- take up residence in this life, in this world, in this time. There is no escaping it, nor should there be hopes for such, or attempts at such. God has created us to be his creatures in an alienated and broken place still filled with the imprint of his glory. The mission of the church is for the sake of the world God loves. And so we build houses and plant gardens and raise children, because we, with the world, are not forsaken or forgotten.

The work and practice of theology, therefore, similarly must not be divorced from concrete, dirt-sullied life in this aged world of ours.

Second, I have this idiosyncratic pleasure in the notion of churches each housing a "resident theologian": someone called forth by and for the community, in the midst of the community, as a person gifted by God with the mind and capacity, and therefore the task, of thinking through the theological implications and vision and prescriptions of the gospel. While it is doubtful I will ever hold such an office, I have this romantic vision of churches so valuing the need for hard, careful, nourishing theological reflection that the idea catches on. Furthermore, regardless of official title, I have often felt like I filled such a position in many times and places, and the title of the blog fits the description of the responsibility I have often carried, by implication or by explicit conversation, in the churches which have been my home.

Finally, the subtitle should be equally clear:

"Taking the time God has given us to practice the good work of theology in imaginative, faithful, and playful ways, in service to the church and the world."

If I have done anything right, at least by my plans for what this blog should be from the beginning, it has been to stay true to this vision. Theology is a good work, but it requires careful and patient practice -- but never too serious, never sloppy, never bound to boredom or to slavish routine -- and as Hauerwas puts it so well, God has given us all the time we need to complete the tasks before us. May we take them up, then, and fulfill them to the best of our abilities, with profound gratitude for such an extraordinary gift.

No comments:

Post a Comment