Transforming Christian Theology
For Church and Society
Publication Year: 2009
Is there a role for Christian theology in the ongoing transformation of church and society? How can the reflective imperative of Christian discipleship support a transformative vision of the world?
This compact volume offers a way for Christians to reflect deeply on how best to conceive Christian identity, commitment, and discipleship in today's challenged, globalized, pluralistic scene. Growing out of the recent "Rekindling Theological Imagination" initiative and led by esteemed theologian Philip Clayton and his colleagues, this volume seeks to capture and articulate the ferment in grassroots North American Christianity today and to relate it directly to the recent strong resurgence of progressive thought and politics. It argues strongly for a mediating role specifically for Christian theology, conceived first as a life practice of Christian discipleship, and its call has found enormous response from popular audiences in conferences, online, in informal Christian settings, as well as in mainline denominations and the academy.[[>
Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
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Title Page, Copyright
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Each of these magazines has an editorial in each issue, in which the magazine weighs in on the issues of the day. After subscribing for a while, I started to play a game with myself. I’d read the headline and first couple sentences of the editorial, then guess as to the magazine’s concluding posi-And you know what? I was right every time. I batted 1.000. No matter ...
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...hristian language is alive and well in the churches—and sometimes outside them as well. But deep reflection about this language is in trouble. These pages offer a radical call to pastors and laypeople to transform theology as we know it today. They’re also a call to each reader to explore and voice his or her own Christian beliefs in such a way ...
Introduction: Getting Clear on What You (Really) Believe
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I’m writing this book because it seems that many Christians no longer know how to talk about their faith—at least not in an open, attractive, reflec-tive, humble, inquiring, and truth-seeking way. It’s not just that we don’t know how to “witness”; we don’t even know what we ourselves believe. I’m writing this book because I think that this is a very, very serious problem that ...
Part OneTheology for an Age of Transition
1. Things Have Changed,or “Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Any More”
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American church undergo a radical transformation. It’s almost as if there has been a major earthquake—or, more accurately, a series of major earthquakes—realigning the entire landscape in which we live. It reminds me of pictures of the San Andreas Fault in California. On the west side of the fault line you can see an outcropping of rocks coming ...
2. Do Christians Have to Hate Change?
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...s hard as it can be to cope with it, change is good! The stereotype says that until you’re thirty you make change, and from thirty on you fight it. It’s certainly true that older people tend to be in blocks to change. But the stereotypes don’t quite fit. There are people in their twenties who are trying to keep everything the same, and people over ...
3. Why the Answers Must Be Theological(and What That Means)
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...very Christian has a theology. For that matter, so does every Jew or Muslim or Hindu. A theology, in the broadest sense, just means what you believe about God (theos). Tragically, theology somehow got turned into a professional sport—a move that produced many of the negative tendencies that we already know from professional sports in ...
4. Postmodernity MakesTheologians of Us All
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...n part 3 we will look at the new social and cultural resources avail-able to genuinely transformative theologies, including the new forms of social networking that led to the election of President Barack Obama. This radical morphing of the American public square won’t go away because technologies never go backwards; they just keep building on top of ...
5. Postmodern Believing
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...utside of the world of conservative evangelicals, many American Christians seem to have some pretty serious problems saying what it is that they believe with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. We act as though we’re really unsure what sorts of things (outside of science and common sense) we’re allowed to have deep, life-changing ...
6. “Everything Must Change”
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...verything must change.” These three words compose the title of a recent (and extremely important) work by Brian McLaren. In it he As a follower of God in the way of Jesus, I’ve been involved in a profoundly interesting and enjoyable conversation for the last ten years or so. It’s a conversation about what it means to be “a new kind of ...
7. Managing Change
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...accepted, and embraced. Parents, for instance, are constantly man-ily’s history (moves, job changes, divorces, deaths in the family), and sometimes by the radical transitions that children go through as they age. Pastors are also constantly asked to manage change, whether it comes through new leadership, church crises, demographic changes in the commu-...
Part TwoTheologies That CanTransform the Church
8. Don’t Give Up on the Church!
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...s we’ve seen, mainline churches today are facing a crisis greater than at any time since the founding of Christianity in the United States. These churches, once the staple of American religious life, decades, and the situation has now reached a critical point for many main-line denominations. Large numbers of congregations are fighting to survive. ...
9. Transformative Theologies
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...is inclined to a rather dark view of future prospects for mainline churches. Here’s what the dark view looks like: the church trains its best and brightest candidates for ministry in seminaries, giving them three years of academic course work and, usually, some sort of internship experience. Then they are to go out to serve and grow the church, doing ...
10. Learning to Find YourTheological Voice
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...here’s a widespread misconception that you have to leave your answers to questions about religion and faith. In fact, the most Seminaries are places where people like me issue driver’s licenses or some-thing that allow you to do theology. Then there’s a second misconception: the belief that theologians come in only two flavors—pastors and academic ...
11. Theology as Telling the Story
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...odern assumptions are clearly part of what’s getting in the way bitable foundations through logical inferences to conclusions that should be compelling for all rational agents. “Modern” theological systems are like the skyscrapers in New York City: their girders are driven deep down into immovable bedrock; their structures are constructed according to scientific ...
12. Theologies in Action
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...heology starts, I’ve argued, with exploring the intersections between my story and God’s story. It includes bringing to the surface the deep assumptions I’ve already made about who God is and testing them against the four sources of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experi-ence. It involves coming back again and again to the Seven Core Christian ...
13. A Theology of Self-Emptyingfor the Church
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...heologies always involve the weaving together of God’s story and one or more human stories. In Christian theologies, Jesus’ life and teaching play a central role in the resulting narrative. We’ve explored in more general terms what theologies are and aren’t. It’s time now to consider a very specific example of how a theology is discov-...
Part ThreeTheologies That CanTransform Society
14. New Partnerships in Christian Activism
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...tions with significant events in your life. And, together with oth-ers, you’re ready to sketch a theological vision that has the potential to By taking these steps, you join a vibrant group of believers who are seeking to think and live the relevance of Jesus’ life and teaching for today’s complex world. But how do Christian believers avoid freezing the ...
15. Time to Leave behindOld Liberal/Evangelical Battles
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...tian discipleship using the “Belonging, Behaving, Believing” sionary way of thinking that typified the modern world. What do these shifts do to the old oppositions and battle lines that have defined the American Webster’s New World Dictionary defines conservative as “tending to preserve established traditions or institutions and to resist or oppose any changes in ...
16. From Church Ministriesto Missional Churches
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...deeper. It turns out that the whole idea of separating “the life of the church” from its “external” ministry programs—which was the dominant pattern in the modern period—is neither biblical nor effective. As churches have slid more and more to the margins of our society, this strategy has proven increasingly damaging. Truly transformational theologies, and the activism ...
17. Social Transformation without“Us versus Them”
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...hristians still want to make a difference in the world. It’s our call-ing, and our passion. Yet now it’s a different world than the one for which most of our established ministries were designed. How are we going to transform it if we don’t understand it? In this new world:Meeting on Sunday mornings with a local church congregation in • ...
18. Constructing Theologies of the Communityfor the Community: The Six Steps
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...n this chapter I offer six steps for developing Christian theologies that support social transformation. In the past, the standard way of describing the task has been to create a theology for Christian involve-ment in broader society. The trouble is that each of those words car-ries baggage; the connotations point in the wrong directions. “Involvement ...
19. Toward a Progressive Theologyfor Christian Activism
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...do progressive theologies actually function? What are they based be grounded in Scripture and how it can speak powerfully and prophetically There are two different senses of the word progressive. The broader sense of the term—changing, improving, making things better—should be uncon-troversial. How could a theology not to be progressive in this sense? Our ...
Part FourConversations Worth Having
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...word. It’s meant to function as the invitation to a passionate dia-logue about theology and the way it shapes our life together as ology for you to sign on to does not mean we don’t have beliefs. Sure, we have our own convictions, but more than that we believe in God’s transfor-mative presence and power in open, honest, and passionate conversations ...
Conversation 1. Choice, Convictions,and Connections
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Our Civic and Political Lives, Robert Putnam demonstrates how, from the 1990s to today, the polarization and politicizing of religion has led an increasing number of young people to reject religion and its institu-tions, generally taking the attitude, “If this is religion, I’m not interested.”1 The result of these overly politicized forms of faith is two generations of ...
Conversation 2. Barriers to Belonging
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...enominational Christianity in America no longer functions as the thoroughfare of Christianity, or even spirituality, in the ways that it once did. Like the great American car industry in Detroit, the game in town. In fact, many other forms of faith community have gradually been gaining a bigger share of the spiritual marketplace. The diversification ...
Conversation 3. Toward aProgressive Missiology
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...believes it to be, “working with God for the salvation of the derstandings. Some could hear “salvation of the world” within a colonial framework and think we should take the truth that we possess and give it to others in order to make them “saved,” just like us. This is not the case. Instead of possessing the truth, we are to be shaped by it and called to live ...
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For Further Reading
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Bass, Diana Butler. Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.Burke, Spencer, ed. Out of the Ooze: Unlikely Love Letters to the Church Cobb, John B. Jr. Reclaiming the Church: Where the Mainline Church Went Wrong and What to Do about It. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, ...
Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2009