The Spiritual Landscape
Theology and White Noise
For example, the Gospel is not a social project; it's a divine project with social implications. That makes a difference: God is after something far larger than the structure of our society and no social order can claim to be God's order. Therefore, it is not enough to institutionalize a given political order, and we can't discharge our responsibilities as Christians by simply voting in a particular fashion. God is after the whole of our lives and only the people who embrace the Kingdom will understand it. Don't expect a social utopia embraced by the world. That is not what God is after.
Two, theology matters because you are doing it too.
For sometime now I've argued that everyone does triage theology. Each of us moves through life with limited time and resources making theological judgments about what does and doesn't work as a way of describing what God is like, and what God wants of us and for us. More often than not, we don't couch those judgments in textbook vocabulary, but we do make those decisions.
Thinking clearly and as accurately as possible about those ideas shapes the way that we pray and live. And failing to think clearly about it can have its liabilities.
It can compromise our understanding of the Christian message. It can foster self-destructive understandings of God. It can legitimate vengeful and mean-spirited attitudes toward others. It can misshape the way that we live. Distorted understandings of God can rob us of the pleasure and joy that lies in a life lived out of a fuller appreciation of God's will for us. It can narrow our understanding of the Gospel's purpose.
Worst of all, perhaps, misleading theology can deprive us of a living relationship with God who created and loves us. It is hard to watch people live in spiritual and emotional agony who are deeply alienated from a god who is more the product of bad preaching, than the Lord of life. White noise is not just boring. It is spiritually dangerous.
Frederick W. Schmidt is the author of The Dave Test: A Raw Look at Real Life in Hard Times (Abingdon Press: 2013) and several other books, including A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005) and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). He holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Job Institute for Spiritual formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and Consulting Editor at Church Publishing in New York. He and his wife, Natalie live in Chicago, Illinois. He can also be reached at: http://frederickwschmidt.com/
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