Theology After Google
Here's the picture: I find myself a follower of Jesus; that part seems to stick and to deepen the longer I live. I'm not sure exactly how I got here; it's almost like it happened to me. I call it grace. I find others around me who follow the same Teacher and who therefore struggle with many of the same questions and issues that I have. They help me understand myself and remain faithful to my Guide. I call them church.
But what exactly do I believe? What must I say, and what should I not say (and do)? This quest is more open-ended. It's filled with uncertainties and indecisions, and it's constantly evolving. That quest is theology. It's everything I think about and do. It's reading the New York Times headlines online each morning when I awake. It's the philosophy text that I teach in a classroom or the intriguing idea about Christology that I talk about with friends over a beer. It's our attempts to be involved in authentic forms of ministry and Christian community, and the questions we ask about whether those attempts are really faithful and how to make them better. It's that recurring question, "What should I do with my life?"
In the book that Tripp Fuller and I just published, Transforming Christian Theology, we argue that theology is about attempting to answer the Seven Core Christian Questions. These questions have impressive-sounding names: theology proper, anthropology, soteriology, Christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, eschatology. But they are really just the simple, recurring questions that every Christian wonders about as he or she struggles to be a Jesus disciple: Who is God? What are human beings? How are we separated from God, and how can that separation be overcome? Who is Jesus Christ? What or Who is the Spirit? What is the church, and what should it be doing? And what is our hope for the final future of the cosmos and humanity?
These do not have to be high-falutin' debates sprinkled liberally with Greek and German technical terms. The most humble attempts to answer these questions, in word and action, are as authentically theology as are the rarified debates within the Ivy Tower -- indeed, they may be more authentic than what academic theologians do. Call it the Theology of the Widow's Mite.
All right, what can we do?
Theology after Google is about what you do, not about passively reading stuff. So here's what I hope:
- I hope you'll comment on this post. Take a minute to write a sentence or two of response. I am equally intrigued by disagreements as about agreements. Participate! That's what counts. The rest is merely listening, a kind of theological voyeurism.
- Talk about these issues with friends. Blog and post on your own. If you go to a church, talk with church leaders about theology after Google. Set up a discussion group in your home or some other venue. Theology after Google (Church 2.0) is a network of networks. Every group and every network counts.
- Come to the big "Theology after Google" conference and celebration on March 10-12 at Claremont School of Theology, about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Check it out at TransformingTheology.org. You can do two and a half days for as little as $99, and you can stay in the area for as little as $40 a night. Interact with Tony Jones, Spencer Burke, John Franke, Adam Walker Cleveland, Bob Cornwall, Dwight Friesen, Jon Irvine, Glen Stassen, Tripp Fuller, and other speakers. Participate in the workshops. Let your voice be heard, and thereby change what other people take home. Be transformed by what you hear, and then "go thou and do likewise"!
This article first appeared at TheOoze.com and is reprinted with permission from the author.
Philip Clayton is Professor of Theology at Claremont School of Theology and head of the TransformingTheology.org project. He made the journey from conservative evangelical to liberal before staking his tent with the emergent church. His most recent books are Adventures in the Spirit: God, World, Divine Action and Transforming Christian Theology. He blogs at Clayton's Emergings.