THEOLOGY FOR ALL. How I hope and pray that modern worldwide communications might bring women and men of goodwill to a richer theological understanding and communion – with God and with one another – before too many more months and years roll by. Theology is not just for specialists. Good theology is absolutely vital in the world of the 21st century. Good words about God will draw all human persons into a deeper unity. Good theology will not be “hell bent” on separating people, driving women and men of goodwill apart. Theology, properly understood and shared by the human community, will celebrate life in its unity and diversity. Good words-about-God need to be brought back into the public domain every bit as urgently and interestingly as do the other two great shibboleths: sex and politics.

Never bring sex, politics or religion into a conversation!

So runs the received wisdom. But at what cost over the centuries? Let’s not make so many assumptions about this sort of “wisdom” being good. Sometimes, actually, it’s absolutely bad – and definitely not wise. What ordinary, corporate, international, social, practical and personal catastrophes might have been avoided in the last 200 years if we hadn’t left all the “good words about” sex, politics and religion to dreary specialists on the one hand, and barmy hotheads on the other? Good news is properly disseminated by the prophetic conversations of ordinary, decent people all over the world. But the good news about ordinary, honest, decent people’s wanting to live in peace and in harmony with one another needs to be shared more persistently and widely.

The God of Peace, the Source of Everything There Is – is NOT a mean, angry, withholding, bible-bashing old tyrant. Who says? – Well THE BIBLE, actually. Try 1 John 4.16

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

How I hope and pray for teachers and prophets of imagination, grace and courage who’ll persuade humankind that good theology is as important to our long-term health, happiness and even survival as is clean water, good food and medical provision. Bad theology – or no attempt at all to work at a “gospel”, or good-words-about-God with and through, and for, and all around ALL human persons – sets humankind on a hiding to nowhere. Bad theology hurts, maims, wounds, and sometimes, too often, kills.

Does the God who is “Spirit and Truth” ascribe to the Bible the kind of unerring “biblical authority” that certain religious men do? I really, really doubt that. In fact I believe the very suggestion is bonkers. Didn’t Jesus of Nazareth, again and again and again, assert the supremacy of what the Apostle Paul went on to describe as “a more excellent way”? Isn’t the Aramaic language that was Jesus’ mother tongue rich with ambiguity and the all important and oh so necessary poetry?

Here’s a tragic little story – one amongst far, far too many. Lord have mercy!

Only two days after announcing it would hire Christians in same-sex marriages, World Vision U.S. has reversed its ground-breaking decision after weathering intense criticism from conservative evangelical leaders.”The last couple of days have been painful,” president Richard Stearns told reporters this evening. “We feel pain and a broken heart for the confusion we caused for many friends who saw this policy change as a strong reversal of World Vision’s commitment to biblical authority, which it was not intended to be.”

The trouble is that change requires some of us stepping out of line! And it will and does hurt when we’re told that WE’RE being rude and / or unloving towards the literalists – who so readily bash others over the head (and worse) with their fundamentalist absolutism, consumed by their own certainties, often diametrically opposed to any real vision as to What Would Jesus Do? – and steadfastly able to ignore the tragic plight of millions. “Conservative evangelical leaders” of this sort are absolutely NOT bringers of good news.

Would that there could be a bit more “pain and a broken heart” offered up for the isolated, the marginalised and the perpetually threatened of this world. Would that the needs of real flesh and blood human persons – living and loving in this world today – might be paid more attention than the imaginary demands of a book to be held in higher honour, and afforded a higher measure of protection, than the very people its pages seek to advocate.

World Vision? – oh, come on!

 see Paul Robinson’s What the World Vision debate was really all about

4 thoughts on “WORLD VISION?

  1. Amen , what a great start to the day to have read this.

  2. Hi Simon- like you, I was hugely disheartened by World Vision’s reversal of its brave decision. More positively, I agree that our ability to articulate “good theology” confidently and publicly is really important. I was very struck by the following article which talks of “post-liberals” and “post evangelicals”. The post-evangelicals seem to have stuck to their confidence that there is “good news” to be shared, and in the importance of the message and life of Jesus, while recognising that the “good news” is actually much better than they had often claimed. Meanwhile the “post liberals” have stuck to their insights that God has no partiality when it comes to those of other faiths and our LGBT brothers and sisters, while also recognising that, if the news really is so good, then it should be shared confidently. The convergence between these two groups reminds me of your hope early in your post about the possibility of new forms of communication bringing together all those who want a richer theological understanding. The link is:

  3. Hey Thomas. Yes. Convergence. That’s the word we’ve been reaching for, isn’t it? That’s the yearning I witnessed whilst standing in the midst of 35,000 mixed-denominational Christians in St Peter’s Square in Rome last October. As Pope Francis began to speak of Christian unity – and of human frailties, his own included – the Baptist minister behind me shouted out “Praise the Lord! I’ve been waiting for this all my life!” Me too. But it’s your note here that’s given me a new keyword: Convergence. Yes. Great article by Christian Piatt. Thanks for the link. His is a book that will probably find its way to my library ere long. Cracking title.

    Here in the (Anglican) Diocese of Chester we’re celebrating the good news of Elaine Graham’s appointment as Canon Theologian at Chester Cathedral. Her Between a Rock and a Hard Place is such a gift to the Church, if an expensive one. No cheap grace is worth having though, eh? Here’s a bit of the bumph:

    “Elaine Graham argues that Western society is entering an unprecedented political and cultural era, in which many of the assumptions of classic sociological theory and of mainstream public theology are being overturned. Whilst many of the features of the trajectory of religious decline, typical of Western modernity, are still apparent, there are compelling and vibrant signs of religious revival, not least in public life and politics – local, national and global. This requires a revision of the classic secularization thesis, as well as much Western liberal political theory, which set out separate or at least demarcated terms of engagement between religion and the public domain.”

    And I keep returning to some prophetic words at the end of a recent Church Times piece by Martyn Percy, the Principal of Ripon College, Cud­desdon

    “By welcoming some teachers, poets, and prophets among our leadership, who point us imaginatively and compellingly, to Christ, we might yet discover an even richer, more effective purpose in our mission. And, in so doing, we might find some other routes to numerical growth along the way.”

    Incidentally, one of the most natural theological thinkers-on-the-hoof that I know (though she’d howl laughing at the thought of it) – writes Waiting for the Karma Truck here –

    Thanks again, Thomas

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