Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | August 28, 2008

Queen of the Sciences Part 2

To be alive and to be human is to do theology. Everyone has a conception of God, even if that conception is that he doesn’t exist. I made this point in the discussion that followed my post on Sunday and I’d like to expand on it today.

All sciences are of interest and relevance to all people. Everyone needs to know a little bit about the world around us. We need to know a stone from a poison ivy plant (geology and biology) and we need to know a star from a streetlight (astronomy) if we are to function as healthy people.

We all need to know the right things to eat, how to get the right amount of sleep, and how to take care of ourselves. But we don’t all need to be doctors or nurses. Our society as a whole needs many doctors and nurses, to help and heal when life goes wrong, but there is no need for everyone to have an M.D.

Likewise, we all need to know some basics of theology in order to stay healthy:

We need to know that God is Father, Son, and Spirit.

We need to know that the Son has become human, and remains human, and therefore humanity is adopted into the life of the Trinity.

We need to know that we are all included as children of the Father and that we will all live forever.

We need to trust our Father in heaven – even in the face of death – and to love him and love others out of that trust.

But we don’t need a society full of ministers, pastors, and theologians. We need a society full of free people who are living out their hopes and dreams and talents in the light of their knowledge of themselves as children of the Father in Jesus. We need doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers, garbage men, gardeners, firemen, artists, moms, dads, and politicians who are all living out their particular “-ology” in the light of the Queen of the Sciences – theology.

This is the true theological need of humanity: to understand how we are already participants in the Triune Life. If the Church really embraced the truth of humanity’s adoption into the Trinity we would change our approach to evangelism and discipleship in order to meet this need.

As it stands now – I believe – the vast majority of the Church’s evangelism seems designed to convince people that their life is not an authentic life in Christ until they have placed Church participation at the center of their lives. I think most of our discipleship flows from this idea and says to people something like this:

Yes, yes, your interests in teaching and carpentry and gardening are all well and good but what you really need to be doing is learning to be a minister of the gospel so that you can participate in the real work of God: Church work!

What would the world look like if we took theology seriously as a science? What if we really believed that everyone needs to know the basics of theology but only those who desire to, or are especially gifted to, need to become experts? It might look something like this:

I can imagine a society where 70-80% of the population believes that God the Father, Son, and Spirit has adopted them into his life through the Son’s incarnation but regular weekly Church attendance is still only 25-35% of the population.

Churches would be similar to hospitals, auto shops, and universities: places where theological scientists study and practice their science on behalf of all humanity. As a result most people wouldn’t join the Church but they would go to the people of the Church when they needed basic information on theology and for specialized help in times of crisis (birth, marriage, and death e.g.)

The Church would be a place where skilled professionals and well trained volunteers (who have the desire and aptitude to do so) have learned the details of theology – the same way doctors learn the details of biology – so that they can help the world in general when they need it.

The Church would have a different perspective in such a world:

We would see the gospel as a message about what the Triune God is already doing in real human lives.

We’d measure success in evangelism by whether people believe the truth of their adoption and not by whether people start attending services, join the Church, or become active members.

We’d measure the success of discipleship by whether people keep believing the truth about their adoption and not by whether they become more skilled at ministry, better evangelists, or more faithful donors.

To put it simply, I believe that theology will once again be the Queen of the Sciences when the Church starts helping humanity do theology and stops doing theology for its own growth and aggrandizement.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Jonathan!!

    This is a compelling Gospel vision that actually excites me in it’s scope and depth!

    I think it would bring exciting and special burden lifting joy to the millions of frustrated Pastor’s who are now trying to grow a large church attendance but are nothing but discouraged in the attempt.

    The idea of operating like any other type of professional business, where the expert serves many but only has a few dedicated peers assisting him/her, really makes sense!!!

    It reinforces WELL the similar ways we all ALREADY live in Jesus in our distinct and creative ways, while keeping the Truth of our Adoption and Inclusion in Christ as the central thought behind and within all activity!

    Wooo-Hoooo! I am going to share this vision with my church and see how they respond! I am sure it will be with some excitement and enthusiasm, but I will let you know! 🙂

    As a professional theological scientist, I can’t wait to try out this experimental thinking with my Gospel peers in the laboratory of Christ’s life and see what results! I am expecting it to “Blow Up” BIG!!Ha-Ha!!

  2. It is a basic human tendency to want to be better than those around us as a salve for our darkness. Misery loves company especially when your company is worse off than you. The pharisee was thankful that he wasn’t as bad as the tax collector. The disciples jockeyed for position. I think Christ many times told us He doesn’t want a culture of influential christian leaders trying to outdo each other in personal holiness and acts of service, which is in practice and by definition exclusive and ranking oriented. He was especially clear about that to the religious leaders of His day, scathingly so. Christ was really clear about including everyone by humble service in love to all and being transparent. That is true if you are a doctor, mechanic, theologian, or church servant-leader.

    Loving your blog man! Truly outstanding stuff. Can’t help myself lately from commenting.

  3. This is a very interesting concept.

    This would remove the guilt many people experience when they miss church. It would place the responsibility of personal spiritual health onto the individual, where it belongs. People would look to Jesus to be their chief shepherd.

    The assembly would still exist for corporate worship, instruction, encouragement, fellowship and service.

    You may be onto something here.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys!
    Timothy, thanks for the enthusiasm, you actually got me even more excited about my own ideas.
    Tim, I’m really glad you can’t help yourself from commenting – your thoughts are making this a better blog, keep ’em coming!
    Bonnie, the removal of guilt for missing church would a huge step forward wouldn’t it?! Thanks for commenting, hope to hear even more from you in future.

  5. This sounds great, but honestly, if I missed Church, I would end up missing some great stuff that is being taught there!

    Guilt nothing! It’s missing out that I’m afraid of! 😉

    Boyd

  6. I’m with you Boyd, I don’t want to miss out! That’s what makes us theological specialists, isn’t it? We can’t get enough of this stuff!

  7. It’s quite a stretch to propose that theology is somehow akin to a science. Science deals with the natural, theology deals with the supernatural. Certainly we live in a natural world with both natural and supernatural forces at work, but sharing a planet does not mean that there should be a crossover between the two.
    We can plainly see that it is not wise for a layman to “do science” and practice medicine.
    What are the consequences of laymen “doing theology?” We can see it. Look around at the thousands of denominations in the Christian world, with a wide variance of beliefs based on the same set of scriptures. Do you think if more people “did theology” we would come closer to the your theological viewpoint? Would the Roman Catholics would unite with the Baptists? Would Unitarian become Trinitarians?
    If theology were a science the four basics of theology you list would at best be considered hypotheses, but as a part of the study of theology they are truth to some (like you) and error to others. None proven one way or the other.
    A better life and unity isn’t going to come from more people “doing theology” in church or out of church. Your “doing of theology” doesn’t seem to have brought you closer to understanding the ultimate fix for this evil world.
    By the way, I notice you seem express some negative feelings toward organized religion. Reminds of that “church without walls” slogan.

  8. I think part of the problem we struggle with is in creating a duality between “natural” and “supernatural”. That duality assumes that some phenomenon happen because God causes them (supernatural) and some happen as the natural outcome of events set in motion by God at the first moment of creation (natural).

    What I’m suggesting is that all things exist in and through the Son and therefore all aspects of reality are open to study both by our five senses and by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

    Therefore there is no natural and supernatural, only creation and humanity in relationship with the Trinity.

    On this basis, then, science is the study of all reality, not just the reality that can be evaluated by our five senses. Such a view of reality and of science includes astronomy, biology, and theology.

  9. […] who they are in Jesus, His Son!! Ha-Ha!! (You can find Jonathan Stepp’s blog posts right here and here!) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Wednesday Extravaganza: […]

  10. One thing to consider Three’s who is all sciences began as a philosophy. As technology increased more observable data was gathered, and philosophy became science as technology allowed what was subjectively percieved as meta-physical to become the discrete and quantifiable physical. I personally believe that technology will increase to allow us to see aspects of God we have never seen before.

    For absolutely certain when Christ returns or I shed this mortal coil, the metaphysical God will become a concrete physical reality to me.

  11. Here is a section from your post, Pastor Jonathan:

    “As it stands now – I believe – the vast majority of the Church’s evangelism seems designed to convince people that their life is not an authentic life in Christ until they have placed Church participation at the center of their lives. I think most of our discipleship flows from this idea and says to people something like this:

    Yes, yes, your interests in teaching and carpentry and gardening are all well and good but what you really need to be doing is learning to be a minister of the gospel so that you can participate in the real work of God: Church work!”

    Possibly some believe that evangelism and discipleship is focused on Church participation/work, but I don’t think that is the primary focus desired by most Christians. I hope it is not. I think in our heart of hearts our desire is for non-believers to KNOW Jesus as we have come to know Him, and then to grow in that relationship. We have tasted and IT IS GOOD! That is what I want for my lost children, for the pure LIGHT of Jesus to flood their hearts so they may shed the darkness that encompasses them. That is what we should want for all who are mired in incomprehensible pain and self-imposed seperation – to know the Truth that will set them free! In the West, if we have not come to have a love relationship with Jesus, we may see our life as wrapped up in duties, including “church work,” and that is what we may invite others to share, because that is as deep as we have personally gone. The woman who poured perfume upon Jesus did not do it as “church work,” but out of a heart overflowing with devotion to her Savior and Redeemer. This is the kind of believer we are called upon to be – passionate LOVERS of God, filled with His love. Spirit filled lovers of God naturally come together, to share the love of Christ, to encourage and build each other up, to be prepared for ministry. We are devoted to fellowship and sharing (Acts 2) and loving the brethren (Colossians 1). Out of the overflow of Christ’s love shed abroad in our hearts, we reach out to a hurting world that doesn’t understand it’s suffering. Settling for “church work” is tragic. What we need is prayer for REVIVAL of our churches, so that God’s Light might shine forth and give hope to the dying! Come, Lord Jesus, reveal Yourself to the world and bind us together as Your children!

  12. I agree, Jerome, most Christians don’t desire to be focused on recruiting people to Church work. Most of us are passionately excited about helping people know Christ!

    I just think that the Church itself, as an institution, has become too focused on recruiting people to Church work and in doing so is actually squelching the natural desire that many people have to share Jesus!

    For example, most Christians would love to tell their friends and family “you are already included, the Father adopted you in Jesus from the very beginning of your life!” Unfortunately most Christians end up getting trained in evangelism to say “you can be a child of the Father, if you follow these easy steps I’m outlining for you.”

    Why have they been trained that way? I think the major reason is theological, a fuzzy understanding of the gospel. But another, secondary reason, I think, is that the Church’s institutional thinking fears that if we tell people they’re already adopted then we won’t be able to recruit as many new members who will donate and help us build our organization. Perhaps the average Christian doesn’t think this way but I think a lot of us Church leaders have those thoughts lurking in the backs of our minds, whether we realize it or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: