Thinking about thinking, thinking about writing, writing about thinking about writing, and (maybe) doing theology, too. Plus, actual writing.I haven't been to church in about two years now. Well, that's not totally true. I haven't regularly attended a local church in about two years. I've been, here and there, from time to time, but I don't attend anywhere at the moment, and I'm not in any particular rush to get myself back into the habit -- at least for the time being.
So I've had a lot of time to step back and look at theology with very different eyes. Not until I moved in with Jake last June did I have any clue as to what was hot or not in theology. And to a certain extant, I still don't. I couldn't tell you much about the New Monasticism or Don Miller or that new Biblical hermeneutic they've got going on over at Princeton U. And until I find a reason to care, I probably won't.
But there is something I've been thinking about for a good while, without making any attempt to articulate it, I guess, until now. And that's the work of the Holy Spirit and the Christian Community in the task of theology.
I'm thoroughly convinced that the regenerative work of the Spirit is vital to the theological task. I'm at odds with the old-evangelical/C.F. Henry contention that depravity doesn't extend to the areas of logic and reason. The idea of total depravity, whether it extends to every nook and cranny of human nature or simply just affects every area of human nature, seems to precludes that our capacity to reason is not affected by the Fall. The Spirit's work in the life of the believer, then, is necessary for a proper understanding of God and revelation. [My only problem with this view is that Jewish theologians wouldn't have access to the work of the Spirit in the work of Jewish theology -- at least in eyes of Christian orthodoxy. The writings of Abraham Heschel make, at least in my opinion, a compelling case against everything I just said. But I'm trying my best not to get too far off topic...]
So while I'm sure [well, mostly...] of the vitality of the Spirit to theology, I'm very unsure of the role of the Christian community in theology, at least to the extent of the local church on the thinking of any theologian. I've argued here, long, long ago, that the local church is essential in the fight against social injustice (and by a little bit of theological extension, evangelism as well). But -- and here is where I'm indebted, for good or ill, to the individualism of the Enlightenment -- is the local community absolutely necessary to the work of theology?
I'm not about to say that I do theology in a vacuum, objectively and impartially, without any assistance from the broader Christian community. Mostly because that would be a colossal lie, on so many different levels. But I do do theology apart from the local church, at least in the here and now. In the broader scheme of things, I guess I could argue that I've only been doing theology apart from the local church for something like, 1/12 of my Christian life. And at some point, I intend to do theology as part of the local church again. But for the time being, as I'm not part of a local community, does that mean that what I'm doing shouldn't be considered theology? I don't have my copy of Stan Grenz's Theology for the Community of God lying around, but I'm pretty sure old Stanley would object to my method. And I'm pretty sure my esteemed roommate might, too, considering that the two of them are coming out of the same Anabaptist tradition of theology in the midst of community.
But if the work of the Holy Spirit (or the Comforter) is so tied up in the work of the Church (or the comforted), how is it exactly that I fit in at this point? And is what's going on inside my head/heart really theology? Mostly, I'm just real confused, because it seems like most bad theology since the Enlightenment has come from thinkers who believed they could do their work on an individualistic level, and bypass all the stickiness that comes from doing theology in community. But, to be honest, that's what I want, too.