09 April 2015

How do your evangelists and theologians get along?

Happy Easter to Russian readers! (Photo: US 395 between Ritzville and Pasco, Washington.)
A few days ago I was part of a small group discussing the theological challenge of Easter for nonchurched people. We were invited to share our thoughts about how would we explain the importance of the Resurrection to people who didn't already see themselves as part of the story.

As we touched on various themes of atonement and Jesus' victory over death, I felt a strong inclination to make a distinction: the work of the evangelist is not always the same as the work of the theologian.

Theologians get legitimate pleasure from thinking about God with devotion and maximum brainpower. They are right to pursue questions, to explore intellectual and biblical linkages, to question each other and the rest of us, to leave no stone unturned in their godly curiosity.

Sometimes we might wonder how important some issues are in the greater scheme of things. For example, how important is it to know details of local culture in biblical times? Specifically, how crucial is knowledge of biblical sacrifice to your personal understanding of Jesus and your ability to invite him into your life as Teacher and Lord? How much do you need to know about the compilation and ratification of the Bible in order to use it well for devotion and discernment?

Evangelists communicate Jesus' invitation: be reconciled to God! They do this on multiple levels: by earning credibility and permission through the quality of their relationships and their ability to listen, then by accurately repeating Jesus' own invitation, by honestly revealing the crucial difference this has made in their own lives, and by inviting their audience to experience the Christian community formed by the invitation. (What have I left out?)

It seems clear that evangelists and theologians need each other, and both need to be servants of the larger church. Don't theologians sometimes get tempted to think that their special insights are crucial for salvation? Aren't evangelists sometimes tempted to oversimplify doctrinal issues? Aren't both sometimes inclined either to overemphasize confessional distinctives, or leave them off the table altogether?

Of course I'm exaggerating the distinction to make a point; we're all theologians and all evangelists to some extent. But I think we operate best as a church when we honor our specific gifts and a deliberate, collaborative division of labor. What's been your meeting's or church's experience? Do your systematic theological thinkers and your most effective invitation-givers get along with each other? How do they remain accountable to each other and to the church as a whole? How might they bless each other more effectively?

Just as I finished up this post, I was delighted to come across some Deep Thoughts on "Holidays and atonement" ... "When I first learned about other theories of atonement, the question that crossed my mind was which one is right?"

And here's a relevant item on "Word/Spirit complementarity": "Too Reformed for Revival?"

A question for theologians and evangelists to ask each other: "Will you move into the new land?"

How might Anglicans more adequately nurture Christian intellectuals? "Christian Scholarship Beyond the Theological Guild." And does American academia deserve the praise given in this article?

"The American credibility trap."
Whether it’s McCain’s solid record of uncritically supporting anyone anti-Moscow, Mitt Romney’s claim that Russia was America’s ‘No. 1 geopolitical foe,’ or Obama’s talk of reducing the Russian economy to tatters, American leaders have an annoying habit of bumbling right into the Kremlin’s own game. The counterproductive, utterly irrational idea of maintaining US ‘credibility’ as some kind of world leader seems to make them incapable of changing these tactics....
Haaz Sleiman, Muslim actor: "It's an Honor to Play Jesus."

Obituary for Dwaine Williams in Spokane's Spokesman-Review.

"This train don't carry no liars, no false pretenders, no back-biters...."

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with the great Otis Spann on the piano. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Marshall Massey said...

Many thanks for the link to Michael Jay’s blog entry. It’s excellent!