Constructive Theology is Improvable and Practical

July 10, 2022

“It [the book] is a work of constructive theology—offering a positive, practical, open, faithful, improvable, and fresh articulation of Christian faith suitable for people in our dynamic times. It is also a work of public and practical theology—theology that is worked out by “normal” people in daily life.”

–Brian McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking, (xii)

Any way of thinking about God’s nature, working or will (i.e., theology) that has virtually no practical effect or provides no support for how I might live my life in this world, might be interesting to consider but is of no real value. For me the test of what I would call “good theology” is what kind of life it inspires, motivates, equips, and/or empowers me to live. What fruit my theology bears in my life is indicative of whether it’s worth exploring and embracing.No theology I’ve encountered or considered answers every question I face in my day-to-day life. However, I’ve found that Open and Relational Theology fits better with how I’ve understood the essence of God’s nature and how God works in the universe. It fits better with how I live my life.

Therefore, McLaren’s statement that his books “is also a work of public and practical theology—theology that is worked out by “normal” people in daily life,” makes me want to read on. I’m 66 years old. I don’t have time to waste on things that aren’t practical and thus related to how I am living or desire to live in this world. That’s why speculation about the “Trinity” while fascinating to consider and the nature of Jesus’ “substance” relative to the Father has been a much debated topic from the outset of Christianity, whatever “the truth” might be about these (and numerous other issues) just aren’t that important to me.

The other word that appeals to me in McLaren’s claims for this theology is “improvable.” This is what I consider to be “theological humility;” something I’ve come to highly value. I no longer have time for those who claim they have “the truth” about God or that they know certainly God’s will and how God works in this world. Nor do I have time for those who claim their complex, convoluted theory about how all the Bible fits together in perfect harmony shows how its diverse and contradictory witness is proof of its divine inspiration.  

As I’ve written before, one of my most treasured statements from the apostle Paul is found in 1 Cor. 13:12, where he states, “We see in a mirror dimly…for we only know in part…”. We must accept our creaturely finitude and that in that finitude we only have “mediated” and not “direct” access to the divine. If God is a mountain, I only see one part of it from one perspective and angle at any moment. I can never see or grasp the entire mountain at the same time and space. If that’s true of a mountain, how true is it of the almighty creator of the universe?

This quote is from page xii of his book. So, I will read on with anticipation looking for a theological understanding that is both “improvable” and “practical.” I trust that is what I will find.

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