We all have theology; some bad, some good, some underdeveloped, some twisted. But we all have it, because we all ask questions… What is the meaning of life? What is the nature of God? How does He reveal himself to us? How does He guide? How can I know I am making right choices? These questions are theological in nature.
So this begs another question… What is good theology? Good theology is brave and magnetic. In helping others it goes beyond the therapeutic notions that tackle our ego, make us feel better, but leave us with the same big questions. Theology is honest and compelling at the same time, it looks at life with all its problems and possibilities. Theology is where human experience meets the text of the Bible and brings about transformation. We have restricted it to libraries, but it naturally gravitates towards life and practice. Good theology is rooted in the Word of God; it is informed by it and energized by it. It is generous when it comes to human experience and flexible, but it is not wishy-washy and weak.
Theology has many different definitions. Probably the most famous one is by Anslem of Canterbury: fides quaerens intellectum ‘faith seeking understanding’, but theology also needs in its definition the word ‘speak to’ and this is precisely where theology encounters a problem. A lot of people, including Christians, do not believe it has anything worthwhile to say or anything that can speak to our situation. Where have we picked up such a bad attitude to theology? From a friend? Professor at college? Parent? Church? Do not be a victim of someone else’s opinion. Find out for yourself. Give theology a chance to help you unpack issues that bother you. It will help you make connections between the surface and depths of meaning. If handled correctly it will be a great tool for your faith and ministry formation.
Here are a few very simple things to remember when we engage in theological reflection on a personal level.
- Experiences often overlap and are very tightly linked. One thing you can try to do is to separate them. Take them one experience at a time; it is more manageable that way. However the important thing to remember is also that on another level theological reflection helps us live a life that is less fragmented. Be ready to zoom in and out of your stack of questions and experiences.
- Look at a particular experience in the light of your beliefs and the text of the Bible, but also through the wisdom of those who went before us, the great cloud of witnesses.
- Be willing to be changed.
- Theological Reflection is a discipline so it needs you to be intentional about it. Keeping a journal is a great way to record our questions and research.
- Theological Reflection recognizes that apart from sin God is always present in all circumstances. Look for God in the experience. Be present to the presence of God.
- Be aware however that in all this there may be a danger of looking at ourselves and our experiences and getting stuck at ‘me and mine.’ Do not let this happen. The aim of theological reflection is a greater understanding not only of our experience and ourselves, but a deeper knowledge of God, His nature and His dealing with us.
Joanna has a passion for mentoring female leaders to become mentors for a new generation. She is a founding director of One Rock, a board member of Renovare UK, and an associate lecturer at Oasis College. In her spare time she loves taking photographs of nature, and playing with her cat Chester.