Monday, August 08, 2011

What I learned in Seminary: 0.5 My first seminary paper

As I wrote earlier I am starting a new series that looks back at the various classes I took at seminary in order to look more carefully at some of the more interesting "theological nuggets" I came across in my 4 years of seminary.
In order to start this off I thought I would publish the first paper I wrote at Seminary--pretensions, non-sequitors, warts, and all.

Why Study Theology
By Chris Halverson
Professor Donald Luck believes in a fallen world. One where academic rigor and logic has been shunned, and those skills forgotten. No more heinous proof of this fact need be given than the conversion of the pastors’ studies into offices. (60) Thinkers in this world have fallen into two camps, the Absolutists and the Relativists, both of whom object to theology for their own unique reasons. Luck plants himself at a third point, which defends theology, convinced openness. (136)
The Absolutists see things as black and white, and assume their position is right and therefore all others must be wrong. They hold tight to their ideas, but don’t have a nuanced understanding of them. They do not recognize that accepting “just the Bible” encourages eisegesis. (3) They emphasize being lead by the spirit, but do not come up with a good way to test to ensure the spirit is that of God. Luck gives the example of a student who quit his medicine he was taking for his mental health and discerned that God wanted him to walk around and tell everyone the world was about to end. (10-11) In response to another objection, that “We should focus on committed discipleship” (17) instead of theology Luck argues that theological assumptions prompt actions. (18) He also challenges the idea that theology creates doubt instead of faith; this is the mentality behind the bumper sticker that says, “God said it! I believe it! That settles it!” (21) Luck’s response is that faith is not unquestioning, but instead trust. (22)
The Relativists make the opposite mistake when dealing with theology. They recognize the weakness of their own understanding and ideas, and universalize this intellectual pauperism. Thus all ideas are equal. Therefore they revolt against the idea of Ideas, specifically against abstraction, theory, and a seeming lack of clear-cut results, all of which can be intimidating. (27-43) Luck’s basic response to this impotence of thought is that ideas are real. Ideas have practical consequences(28), are no more theoretical than politics(35), and that carefully thought out theology, while intimidating, is worth it because it is furthering the goals of the church (38) though he admits it does take some practice. (40)
Luck’s third way moves a person beyond ignorant absolutism and impotent relativism. Convinced openness moves people to think critically, recognizing that some ideas and things are relatively better than others. The reader is given seven criterions by which to do this measuring; an assertion should be more informed, faithful to the church’s faith and life, more comprehensive in scope, informative and relevant, more consistent, more aware of the context from which it came, and more aware of alternatives to it. (134-136)
An attitude of convinced openness makes for a good theologian, and Luck things everyone should be one. Being a theologian allows a person to integrate the sacred and the secular in a healthy and consistent way. (47) It also helps church bodies, which are often run by the masses, not professional theologians, to make informed decisions. (55) Encompassing these and other reasons for justifying theology is its goal as defined by Luck. “Theology aims at providing perspective on the church’s faith and life, guiding its mission to the world and its own inner preaching and teaching life.” (65)
Luck’s middle path is a very mature way to look at the modern world’s competing truth claims. The world is neither black and white, nor bla unintelligible greyness; it is shades of grey, carefully examined and continually re-appraisable.

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