Saturday, March 15, 2008

what to do

In my own simple way, I'm a mind person. I like to work, particularly on theology, and theology that is grounded in the word of God and down to earth, or for us. And the best work of this is done in community, in the context of past and present work of others. And I like exegesis, which goes together with good theology, that is, seeking to understand what God's word is saying to us.

This takes hard work and training and education beyond what I've received to do the very best one can do in it. Just the same, I would like to do what I can on something that perhaps I could contribute something to. I know that sounds far fetched, and there may very well be an element of hidden pride in it. I'm not so sure about that. I know we all stand on the shoulders of those who have preceded us, and we need each other, ever, in whatever endeavor we seek to accomplish.

The advantage of working on one thing, along with fulfilling everything else God has called us to in Jesus (and for all of us, that includes reaching out to others to help them come to Jesus for salvation and become established in him), is that I can keep reading and working on understanding all that I can, so that possibly this can lead to a better understanding of God's will for us in Jesus, in a given area. And even if nothing arises out of that, we can keep saying the same things in a more accurate and clearer way, and in accordance with the need of our day, from Scripture.

I know one might protest, there's nothing new for us to say. But along with the pastor of the Pilgrims before they came to America, John Robinson, I would say that we need to be open for new light to break forth to us from God's word. It's ever from the word and to be measured in that truth, in the faith God has given to the Church through the centuries.

An example of this kind of work is from a true scholar, Scot McKnight, in his book, Community Called Atonement, solidly grounded in Scripture and in the faith.

I know this is rather fuzzy, but it has been on my mind for some time, probably for years. Does any reader have similar sentiments? And what might you add or like to say here?


Scot McKnight said...


I'll try this again. I posted and it didn't show up.

Some folks are given to depth and others to breadth. For the former, there is a need to find a topic and dig in and dig and dig. For the others, there's a need to read widely and broadly and to know about lots of things.

If you want depth, I recommend two approaches:

1. Mastering a book in the Bible and its major commentaries and studies.

2. Mastering a theme or a piece of theology or a theologian.

This gives depth and mastery but also the options of choosing different ways.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks so much.

Now I need to find what book or topics or thread could be explored that is thin. But I see what you're saying here can open up the way for me to find that, as I keep working at it.

Hard to know where to begin, since there are so many places. But I'd probably prefer to stay in the New Testament, though with the needed task of exploring all that is relevant to the study, certainly including Old Testament writings, and all other relevant writings.

There are favorite places for me and themes I'm interested in. I do certainly like the idea at working on one book from Scripture in the way you describe, and going from there, or maybe one writer, and his books.

Ted M. Gossard said...

This is a helpful post and reminder to us, one that is most important, from Scot McKnight, and important in not misunderstanding my thought here.

Andrew said...

Stupid Panera internet -- it vanished while I was typing my last post.

Is there a particular area in which you feel called to work, study, excel , and contribute?

I guess I'll summarize this as quickly as possible. A friend told me that while it's good to read broadly, at some point I should pick a few authors and just dig deep into their minds, learning their world. (For me, that would probably be Eugene Peterson at this point.)

I think the same goes for theology. It's easy for me, in reading new interpretations and perspectives on theological issues, to feel more tossed around and uncertain about a biblical text. But that doesn't help us live it as easily. So I think it's valid to eventually say, "I'm going to choose the Reformed (or Wesleyan or Vineyard or Catholic, etc.) tradition and run ahead in that." That way we have more of a coherent framework for reading and applying the Bible in our lives, instead of leaving it as a thing of debate rather than a tool for our lives.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Exegesis and theology grounded in Scripture and in the faith of the Church and ever open to reformation. If not it's not good theology and theological practice. Go to writers like, yes, Eugene Peterson (great place to start), LeRon Shults (from Reformed perspective), Miroslav Volf, (I have to add Dietrich Bonhoeffer to this mix), Scot McKnight (from more of an Anabaptist perspective), Kevin VanHoozer. Those are the ones right now I'm working on. (I need to get into Moltmann)

I would find a denomination that lets you differ in areas, and keep working on things yourself with others. The Evangelical Covenant denomination we belong to is good for that. I dislike the idea that you have to believe a certain way, set in stone. Too much confidence in one theological paradigm. "All things are ours" and we need to receive and be open to all of the Body of Christ, including the good found in various denominations.

Just the same, it's best to become a part of a denomination, and for all its imperfections and where you WILL differ (Eugene Peterson is part of the Presbyterian Church USA) stick to it for life, and contribute.

At this point in my life I'm just trying to contribute what I can. And I love both pastoring and theologizing, because that's just who I am.

I've been all over the place, and that was a mistake, but an honest one. I wish I would have done things differently and stayed in one, or at the most, two denominations during my life.

I distrust so much confidence in systems. Calvin was a genius, and much in his Institutes is grand, and in his Biblical exposition. And people like everything neat and tidy and tied well together. I distrust theologies that are so airtight and seem to have an answer for everything. Strengths and weaknesses in Calvinism, Anabaptism and every other theology.

So Andrew, I'd suggest you keep doing what you're doing with an emphasis on growing and serving, through the word, yourself, in community, the communty of a church.

And accept the fact that you'll have to work through some things for yourself. If you go to a seminary like Gordon Conwell, they'll help you do that.

Just my thoughts for right now.