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Emerging Theologies

Reading Alister McGrath’s “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea” bring to mind some of the tensions in the theologies of our present era. McGrath writes about the range of Reformation theologies (which I’ve  also head referred to as Reformation vs Restoration movements). While Luther was conservative in his appeals for reform, focusing on the what he deemed as essential while protecting the historical rhythm of the church others rejected church tradition entirely and anything connected with it: rejecting everything from infant baptism to the Trinity.

Luther recognized the dangers of these extremes (and rightly so I think). Where do you stop and how do you end up with anything unifying truth that connects the people of God? In the beginning of the transformation, everything was up for grabs and all sorts of ideas and extreme expressions emerged. These may have had value in driving the question and helping the move as a whole seek for common unifying themes against the extreme dangers.

There are many threads worth teasing out in this short summary like the seeds of post-modern thought are already present before the “modern’ period (ala deconstruction). But what I also see is that the movement (just like movements in art, culture, philosophy and so on) had to push to extremes during the change. But gradually a moderated version emerged as dominant. Small strains never completely died out, but a large enough middle movement remained that eventually provided a place for unity among fellow “Protestants.”

Today we are in a similar time of radical change. We are going back to the source, and in our move, everything is on the table. The drive back to the source is seen in a widespread acceptance and emergence of Biblical Theology versus Systematic Theology. Yet within the groups of those seeking chnage there are a wide range of theologies. The crumbling of modern foundations early in the 20th century, made room for a range of extreme theologies that were politicized (Feminist, cultural and other theologies), philosophized (Existentialist and such), , economized (Marxist vs. Market driven theologies) and so on.

Today we see a range of emerging theologies that once again are willing to put everything on the table and question everything, including texts, doctrines, praxis and so on). In spite of the dangerous edge that some seem to skate along, all these theologies play an important role in helping define the conversation and the crisis. But I expect that over time a middling set of thelogies will emerge once again to bring a unifying forces to many Protectant (and possibly even Catholic) churches.

  1. Michelle Bickers
    January 23, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Is the Protectant Church what emerges from the Protestant Church when the emergence has subsided and begun protecting its answered questions?

  2. January 23, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Protectant. I like it. Sort of a Protestant Council of Trent. Hopefully, the irrelevant word “protestant” does drop during this revolution and something more centered in faith like “Christian” comes to dominate all the people of God.

  3. January 23, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Funny. I just realized that I wrote Protectant in the original post. I think much of the church has been in protectant mode. But you know, if you really get out and do some work the sweet smell of “proctectant” wears off. 😀

  4. Joe
    January 23, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    I realize this may be a bit remedial for most of your readers, but How are the late 20th century extreme? It seems like faith would challenge those with it’s gift to live as reasoners, in freedom and compassion, and in interaction with power; it seems like an ex(plication/ploration) of those challenges from perspectives you mention might have great opportunities for insight and direction. What made/makes these movements extreme?

    On the other hand, It’s possible that I don’t really understand the theological process or dialogue (it’s certain that I don’t understand it beyond it’s most superficial degree.) If it’s not too dull for the rest of your readers, perhaps a description of what theology is and does relevant to a life of faith might be the best answer for the above questions.

    Thanks for the great posts!

  5. January 23, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    This is a great question Joe. And in my own, writing everything from inuition or memory, I’ll write response though most likely I’ll botch up a few things (or a lot of things).

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