Monday, December 9, 2013
Starting a blog
The PD for my position at the CTM includes this in my tasks: “Foster an understanding of systematic theology in the life of the Synod, promoting new initiatives as appropriate.” The measurable outcome for this task is: “Systematic theology has a high profile in the life of the church”. I’m not quite sure what criteria will be used to measure that outcome. Nor am I entirely sure, at this stage, just how I’ll go about addressing the task. I haven’t been back in this Synod long enough to have any real idea of just how systematic theology is already understood and what contributions I might make to ‘fostering’ that understanding.
Anyway, this seems a good reason to start a blog, and to use it to foster some thinking, provide some resources, and perhaps even spark some discussion about systematic theology (and theology more generally).
And the name? It’s based on Acts 17:20 and the Athenian philosophers’ response to Paul’s strange message about Jesus Christ: “We have heard you say some strange things and we want to know what you mean.” I think this is an appropriate framework for this blog.
Christianity is strange. The proclamation about Jesus Christ was strange in the ancient world. Emerging now from the domesticated pieties of Christendom, Jesus Christ can again address the church and the world with the theological, ethical and spiritual novelty of his way. (I've just recently explored some of these ideas in this short reflection on Christmas.)
Systematic theology is strange. Of all the academic theological disciplines it is arguably the one that sits most uneasily to contemporary academic culture, and it is often treated with suspicion within the church precisely because it is, well, systematic. It is seen to bring too much intellectual organisation to the life of faith. In my view, the more creative exponents of the discipline show how being systematic and being open belong, in their own strange way, to each other.
The Uniting Church is strange. In the very act of union it was called to take a step out of Christendom and its denominationalism. Just how big a step we actually took remains an open question. The Basis of Union presents an account of Jesus which precisely in its orthodoxy subverts the conventional liberal/conservative spectrum we inherited from our mainstream Protestant heritage. I’m not sure that we’ve yet come to terms with that particular Christology. So, in their strangeness, the UCA and its theology are hard to classify.
These different sources of strangeness will be some of the driving forces of this blog.