Sunday, January 3, 2010

Transforming Christian Theology: A Preview

Transforming Christian Theology is one of the most important books we've read in a while. If you're interested in growing discipleship, membership, theological prowess, and the relevancy of the church, then you may find this book important too. We've written a review of it here. But now it's time to let the book speak for itself. Here are a few experts. These are not necessarily the best parts - or even our favorite parts. Instead, these are a few relatively random samples that are meant to whet the appetite. So, if you like what you read below, check out this rockstarerific (outstanding) book. Enjoy!
Many around us are proclaiming that the church is dead and that core Christian beliefs are irrelevant in the contemporary world. We believe they are mistaken. But Jesus' message will be consigned to the dustbins of history unless we, together, begin to show how it remains relevant to our day (xi-x).

The Internet and other new technologies have democratized theology in a way that no one could have imagined just a generation ago...there are urgent Christian reasons to give theology back to the churches and to ordinary people. - even if the word theology has to be radically transformed in the process...We need to stop delegating theology to the specialists and return it to the people who need it...Doing theology is just thinking about your faith. Theology therefore belongs to everyone who is drawn to Jesus and wants to figure out what it means to be identified with him in this immensely complex, twenty-first century world (2-3).

Academic theology - the theology that's done in seminaries and divinity schools and academic journals - isn't going to help us rethink what "church" means in this radically new world. In fact, most academic theologians are hardly addressing the topic (3).

We have trouble talking about what is uniquely Christian about our lifestyles and ministries, and our inability in crippling those ministries. This book is a call to give the church back its tongue, to help everyday Christians find their voices again (7).

In order to be effective, we will have to be lighter in our feet and more adaptable and open to change than we have been so far. We need to accept a while new assortment of best practices that are emerging outside of traditional churches and structures, and we need to bring them right into the heart of church and social ministries today. Never before have the stakes of complacency and inactivity been so high (18).

The three central features of postmodern religion are the focus on practice, the turn to a more pragmatic idealism, and the stress on deep, life-changing convictions in a world of rampant religious plurality (32).

We are in the midst of the most rapid social and technological change that our species has ever undergone...Are church leaders utilizing these new technologies to support their outreach and ministries?...Not to know new media is not to exist in the world more and more people exist in (44).

We cannot control the changes that are already upon us, but we can meet them intelligently and respond to them with grace, innovation, courage, and far-sightedness. As managers and leaders, we can invite others to engage change constructively and faithfully...Instead of seeking to preserve the past at any cost, we need a commitment to adapting what we have been as church to what we need to be as church in the future (51).

Please allow the bright, young seminary students whom we are now educating to be involved in the forms of ministry that they are envisioning. Trust that God is working in them as well! Allow them to form cohorts and house churches and church plants. Allow them to hold worship services in pubs, to perform street theater, to host discussion groups in office buildings, to create sidewalk Sunday schools, and to try out the other innovative ways of being church that they are even now dreaming...We need to hear in visionary terms how the core message of the Christian tradition can still speak powerfully to our world (53).

As long as the two camps [conservative vs. liberal] represent an either/or choice, the church will not be able to speak with a unified and powerful voice to the contemporary world situation. We will continue to be rent asunder - the one side condemning the 'secular humanism' and the immoralities of our day and calling us back to first-century beliefs and practices, and the other side becoming more and more politically engaged but less and less able to ground the activism in the language of our tradition (64).

Clearly [Martin] Luther wanted to be an agent of change in the church and in society. But he knew that just altering one or another part of the current Christian practices would be superficial and temporary. The forms had to stem from fundamental changes in the church's understanding of its Founders - Christ - and his core teaching (77).

Doing theology means consciously reflecting about your real life as it has become intertwined with a real God. The trouble is that people are really good at repeating statements about God - usually statements they've learned in church - but they're not as good at linking these statements richly and deeply to their own lives (80).

Theology means moving from Scripture and tradition, by means of reason and experience, to application in the contemporary world (89).

Again, being progressive does not mean you wish to reject the past. But it does suggest a greater emphasis on innovation, on openness to change, on learning new things from new contexts, and on finding new forms through which the church and her action in the world may be manifested (122).

I presuppose that theologies are composed in the trenches, not in the ivory towers. For this reason, I invite ordinary people into dialogue, not just the specialists. I invite you to become producers of Christian theologies and not just merely consumers of theologies (124).

But mainline churches are not convincing society, or even their own members, that when Jesus' followers are involved with others in missional living, they're dealing with the most significant thing in their life (152).

At no time since Augustine and the Fall of Rome in the late fifth century has the church stood before such revolutionary times. Many well-worn practices will be abandoned, and many beloved congregations will close. But the Spirit of God will continue to move upon the face of the waters (153).

Transforming Christian Theology does not seek to have the last word. It's meant to function as the invitation to a passionate dialogue about theology and the way it shapes our life together as individuals and as the Church...It's our desire that theology - real, robust theology - be the work of the people (159).

The classic modes of communication in most churches are still based in the world of Gutenberg, the world created with the advent of the printing press. Technologically speaking, however, today we have moved into a Google-shaped world. Many worship services continue to be centered on the individual consumer of texts, be they read spoken, or sung...By contrast, today's communication is being shaped by technologies that center on collaboration and participation - technologies that make use of images, narratives, and art; and that function in a context of continuous flux and change...The challenge is not just how to use new technologies effectively; the challenge is creating a community that communicates to, in, and eventually from a Google-shaped world (168).

In this world of broken persons, peoples, and planet, our God is living, present, and active on a mission for the salvation of the world. We are called to join in (170).

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