Thursday, May 13, 2010

Arthur McGill on the Task of Christian Theology

"Christian theology is disciplined and responsible thinking about God as revealed and worshiped in Jesus Christ. It is focused upon Christ as the power of God and the wisdom of God. In their thinking, men may obvious consider all sorts of things besides God. And when they seek an understanding of God they may take other routes than the way of Jesus Christ. Even Jesus Christ himself may be approached in terms other than as the presence and revelation of God -- for instance, as a man who shows historians the world of Palestine in the first century. But all thought that seeks an understanding of God in and through Jesus Christ is Christian theology.

"Christian theologians, however, do not acquire contact with Christ by reaching out toward him with their mental faculties. Rather, they know him as one who affects and informs their concrete living, their own personal way of being. Even before they begin to think about the meaning of Christ, they are already in touch with him, already related to him and aware of him. If they seek to understand him, it is because in some sense they already know him.

"What is this relation to Christ which precedes theology? It is the relation of a person who finds himself turned toward Christ for life and light. ...

"By theologizing, even with the finest intellectual equipment, no man is able to bring himself into fruitful contact with Jesus as the power of God and the wisdom of God. No man can bring about his own birth into the divine life. Every theological investigation can only be undertaken by men who in their actual existence are already oriented toward Christ as the divine life and the divine light of men. Theology always presupposes people who are Christians, in the sense of living with this orientation.

"Theology does have a very special role to play, however, for understanding is the faculty by which we humans participate in openness. A man's understanding is what enables him to see into other people and things, to bring them forth from their hiding. But understanding, especially through the power of speech, is also what enables him to open himself to other people and things. By their understanding, then, men participate in the light -- in the openness -- of God. Theology, as an activity of the understanding, represents a responsible effort to celebrate and share in the light of God, to gather the broken and clouded fragments of human existence into the radiant openness that Christ brings. That is why theology is not an activity restricted to experts. It is to be undertaken by everyone who knows Christ as the light of the world and who exercises his understanding to participate in that light and to share it with others."

--Arthur McGill, Suffering: A Test of Theological Method (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 1982) 22-23, 25-26

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