Wednesday, September 1, 2010

We See in a Glass Darkly

So, what's my dissertation about? Thanks for asking. And I'll try to tell you without your eyes rolling back in your head.

First, its about theology, or how we think and talk about God. If God is living and active, engaging the world, then there should be some evidence of that. From this perspective, theology is about God, not just the history of ideas about God. And if this is the case, then theology should be done in the world and for the world, not just in a library. That's one thing my dissertation is about.

Second, its about salvation. God's engagement with the world, from a Christian perspective, is a saving engagement. Thinking of salvation this way requires a larger view than what we typically have, and in my estimation it requires a more biblical view. Salvation in the Bible is bigger than an individual's status or eternal destiny. If we expand our view, then we will look at what God is up to differently. That's another thing my dissertation is about.

Third, its about what counts as data. Talk of God's involvement in the world is tricky business and much harm is done in the endeavor. An earthquake in Haiti or a hurricane in the gulf or the prosperity of a particular person or group are too casually assigned to God's agency in the world. We have, for a long time now, been conditioned to think of the world in relation to strict causation. If "a," then "b." This is a good way to think about some things, but not everything, and especially not complex things. As Paul says, we see in a glass darkly and need to develop both a particular perception and some modesty about our claims. How we attend to the world conditions what understandings we develop. I am suggesting that Paul's phrase "being saved" represents a particular way of engaging the world that produces a unique wisdom. It represents a particular type of practical reasoning that both uncovers and enacts a particular way of being with God in the world. This is another thing my dissertation is about.

Fourth, congregations are not typically good at this. Other kinds of practical reasoning tend to dominate congregational life--like problem solving or strategic planning. And these get in the way of an imagination rooted in God's saving engagement with the world. How would congregations actually develop competence in this way of viewing the world? So, my dissertation is about the work I'm actually doing with two congregations as we kind of experiment along these lines together. This is another thing my dissertation is about.

How's that sound? Thanks for asking.


Cheryl Russell said...

Sounds great!

Cathy Haught said...

Like (thumb up)

Anonymous said...

Evidence confirming my suspicions. I'm looking forward to seeing you this Saturday at North Davis.

Jeff W