practice, practice, practice

My wife and I watched a documentary today called Fall From Grace. It chronicled the hateful and ignorant ideals which are spewed out by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. Although the documentary was enough to make me want to move to Topeka and have a few words with the Phelps Clan, it made me stop and think about theology. It wasn’t just the theology which they were espousing, but the theological task in general.

One scene during the documentary showed an interview with a lawyer where he said the Phelps had lost his license to ‘practice’ law. It was that word ‘practice’ which caught my attention. Now, to be honest I cannot remember if what I am about to say I once heard from someone else, in fact I think it was but I can’t remember. Either way, whether this thought is original or not, it got me thinking. People ‘practice’ law, they ‘practice’ medicine. This implies an inherent need to continually refine and rethink strategies and assumptions. The same is true for sports. Practicing is what refines skills and prepares an individual to compete. Why don’t we call it ‘practicing’ theology when we espouse something?

Now to be sure there is a line of thinking which leads one to think that because God spoke through the scriptures that one does not need to ‘practice’ or refine one’s theology because God has already spoken the truth. However, in light of the fact that sin has completely corrupted humanity and has made it apparent that one can read the bible and come out with some pretty off kilter theology you cannot say for certain the former idea is true. The way in which we define the theological task needs to be changed. Why? Because the way we define it has a direct impact on how we carry out the theological task.

Life is contextual. Even if we think we have arrived with some truth that is worth sharing we need to be continually refining the way in which we present it. But beyond the obvious need to be contextual, we need to be continually refining our theology. We need to ask again questions from the past and try and determine a contemporary answer to them. I think practice is a good way to describe our task. Continually rethink. Continually redefine. Always working toward an answer but never settling for one. In the end it is Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, not our theology.

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