Thursday, February 01, 2007

Does my REALITY match my THEOLOGY?


Over the last year I've been really doing some thinking on Reality Vs. Theology. It's been heavily on my mind for the last couple of days due to some posts I've made and those made by many others that I appreciate so very much in the blogosphere.

So, the question I raise today is this. Is my Reality and my Theology in sync? Does one affect the other and is one supposed to over power the other? I think this is true for all of us, that many times our reality is much lower than our theology. The reality, where we really live, isn't matching our theology.

Our theology says something like this (I think this is true for most of us anyway).
  • God loves everyone
  • Jesus was a fan of the marginalized
  • Jesus touched the filth of humanities worst people.
  • Jesus honored the small gifts of a humble widow woman and gave no honor to the riches of the proud
  • Jesus partied with sinners...religious people hate when the word Jesus and partied are used in the same sentence. It makes them feel dirty.
  • Jesus calls me his friend
  • Jesus died on the cross so I could live free from the law of sin and death
  • God's word says I can do all things through Christ Jesus
  • God heals
I could go on and on and on but I think you get the point.

If my theology is correct and I think it is, why is it hard so many times to get my reality to reflect my theology? Yeah I believe God loves everyone....BUT! Yes Jesus touched filthy people but I won't. In my life and in so many others that I see around me, I sense this great disconnect between what I believe and what I do; my reality isn't matching my theology. If I believe the Bible, why can't I simply live it. Why is my reality so much lower than my theology. I believe God is unlimited in power and might but my reality isn't reflecting that at all. I believe God loves the poor, marginalized, broken, deserted, hurting, busted and disgusted people of the world but my reality is too many times disconnected from that truth. Why?!? Would it be a gross misstatement to suggest that if my reality isn't matching my theology then I must really not believe too strongly in that theology? If my understanding of God's word to us is that he wants us to feed the hungry, clothe those that are naked, give water to those that are thirsty, visit those that are imprisoned, defend the fatherless, support the widow and I don't, my reality is far below my theology and doesn't that somehow cheapen the theology I hold so dear? I think it does. What are your thoughts on this? I think this is something I'm going to be wrestling with until I get a closer match between my reality and my theology. The truth of the matter, I think, is that if my reality isn't matching my theology then my theology is worthless.

10 comments:

Jamie said...

Shannon--

Love that last sentence!
Jamie

paul said...

I wouldn't be so hard on yourself - theology needs to inform practice and practice theology - it does not always mean that just because your practice doesn't equal your theology than that is worthless. I would liken it to saying ok i want to drive across europe, i've done all my research, got some places i'd love to visit, got a car but i'm still stuck in london so all that excitement, imagination, longing is pointless...

Rather i'd say it is precisely the excitemtn and the imagination, the dreaming of God that helps inform and shape our realities... as we set off we might not have reached perfection but then again at least we've crossed the channel and now are in mainland europe...

And of course maybe on the way i decide i can skip belgium and go to germany or visit holland but go to spain first - my practice/experience might inform the journey etc...

After all Paul says that we are all work in progress, that christ will complete the good work in us that he has begun but he doesn't give a timescale for that...

I find it helpful to look back over say 15, 10 and 5 and 1 yr to see how i've changed - how often my character has needed to grow for me to be able to reach further out and how reaching further out has grown my character... how spiritual disciplines have helped the inward journey but rhen applying them has helped the outward one...

Me I try and think of lil goals how can i be a lil less selfish there, a lil bit more giving there, how can i help my neighbours, who can i say hello too, who is God sending across my path at the mo and inviting me to trip over them so i have to stop and take time out of my schedule to help with God's schedule...

I understand the frustration, i think an aweful lot of it for me was because i had some form of linear growth model in my head, from glory to even bigger glory - i now realise my growth is more organic like the rings on a tree - sometimes i grow slow or hardly at all and other times i grow a bit more, my growth is multiple directions and depends on external as well as internal factors...

sometimes i find it's just good to remind myself that a lot of this is just being honest and not pretending that i am sorted superman but more a fool who models imperfection...

Shannon said...

Jamie,

Thanks :) Good to have you back around more. :)

Shannon said...

Paul,

Thanks for thoughts on this. I must admit though. I realize my post sounds rather harsh on myself but I used words like "my, I, mine" in the first person so as to not sound as if I were criticizing yours or someone elses reality/theology. I was afraid that it would sound as if I was bashing myself a bit. :) Though there are certainly areas where my reality and theology need to better match, it's not as drastic as it might appear through this post. :)

Glenn said...

Shannon,

I struggle with the same thing and I am trying to take some steps to get out of self-imposed ghetto of a comfort zone. Here are a few thoughts:
Recognizing the incongruence as you have and feeling the tension is what will motivate you to action.
It’s a process that will require you to take some steps of finding how to connect in new relationships.
Notice the opportunities that come your way to give something of yourself without getting anything in return, except the blessing that comes from loving other people.
It is own souls that need to be “saved” from a preoccupation with ourselves.

Thanks for saying what so many of us are feeling.

Shannon said...

Glenn,

Thanks for your comment.

In those places where my reality and theology seem to undergo this deep disconnect I find a great desire to put faith into action. Like other things, I guess you just have to do it. Just act on that faith and trust that God will be there for me.

paul said...

hi bro, i know you weren't critizing anyone else, i was just illustrating from my experience - i think there is always a gap and that part of the adventure is in bridging it as a community rather than solo :)

I appreciated your thoughts!!!

Colin Lamm said...

I've had to take a little extra time to contemplate this post. Perhaps the way in which we learn our theology has a lot to do with the issue. The good news of the Kingdom was not taught to the first disciples in a classroom, but in the context of raw everyday life.

I understand your last comment but would perhaps change things around a bit: I think the incongruity between one's reality and their theology says more about the heart of that person than it does the character of their theology. This, I admit, is something I continually battle. Thank you for once again challenging me.

Shannon said...

Colin,

Friend, I can't tell you how good it is to see you active once again in the blogoshpere.

As always, your comment is well articulated and highly appreciated.

Ari said...

I agree with Colin that the whole concept of theology is a bit flawed to start with in many ways. If you build a life on a flawed premise you're going to find yourself in trouble at some point.

I also think that it's important to remember that we can't put too much emphasis on ourselves and our own ability or desires. We can easily fall into a works only mentality if we are trying to get our lives to match our theology without the right heart to start off with.