by Bo Sanders

I was really challenged by this post entitled “The New Orthodoxy” on Homebrewed Christianity.  Over the past several years I have grown to have a very different understanding of Theology and indeed the entire theological enterprise than I had before.

Here is what I posted there (in the comments):

I like how Continental Philosophy is constantly in dialogue with another author or figure or discipline. I think about John Caputo saying the minimum requirement for philosophy is “make sense”. and to do that you have to utilize thought forms and language that is accessible and understandable to your audience and peers.

It seems to me that theology tries to do that in one of two primary ways:

1) to show continuity with the past at some level.

2) to justify a claim that one is closer to the original intent of Jesus or the early churches’ ideals than the deviations of formalized institutional constructs.

If continuity or validation of original intent are our two primary options… [then it makes sense] regardless of whether one is attempting to align with orthodoxy, heterodoxy or polydoxy.*

Here is where I am at right now:

– If you are going to base things on the Bible – and christian communities in the contemporary context need to do so (sola scriptoria and such) – then you have to humbly acknowledge that you only have a Bible in your hand because early groups, and many other later groups, did what they did and valued what they valued. You are not solo-anything. You are not an island. You did not originate anything. Nothing started with you.  We never start from scratch. Own up to it.  Own it.  Belong to it.

– To be a scholar, to have an expertise, to be a contributing voice to the great chorus… you must contend with the road that has brought you here. This is the responsibility of being part of the endeavor. It is inherent to the task! You do not get to be a Baseball player because you are a great athlete. There is a skill set required.  SO as a Theologian in training embrace the discipline! Be in dialogue with those in the past. Interact with those that have gone before. Own this assignment. Learn the language. Then engage the context.

– The theological endeavor is one that exist as an enterprise and as a discipline! Where the philosopher needs to “make sense” and the priest needs to bridge the two spheres, the theologian needs to connect the past and the present in order to put forward a possible preferable future.

I think that the reason I have been so resistant to this in that past is because A) the precedent mentality was used to bully people who did not know as much or were not as learned and to marginalize their voices.  I did not like that know-it-all use of church history and was not (at the time) savvy enough or careful enough to separate out the discipline from the mis-use of it’s knowledge.  B) it was my experience that the bullies were always (seemingly) sticking up for the status quo.  Something about that entrenched, conserving condescension just rubbed me the wrong way and I foolishly mistook the messenger for the message.

So I am growing and changing; growing in my understanding and changing in my perspective… hopefully.

* Polydoxy was the topic of Homebrewed’s latest Podcast.