true theology

A reflection on true theology

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What about true theology

“True theology occurs when the faithful respond with ‘amazed recognition’ to the theologian: ‘You said for us what we had wanted to say all along but could not find the words to say it.'” – Simon Chan

Some time back, I was reading when I saw the above quote. It sort of challenged my own thinking on theology. The context of this quote came in a discussion about how “elite” theologians in Asia had been talking theology that showed ignorance about the theological grassroot experiences. They have instead focused on high liberal theories that they adopted from the West without critiquing the ideologies and theologies that they embraced.

The whole discussion veered towards the notion of doing theology. It highlights that the church and the faith community are pretty much an essential component, just like the scholars who study into the original texts and other difficult texts written by authors throughout the years. A theologian who just sits on his desk thinking about theology is pretty much detached from the grassroot experience. There is every chance that they are just writing and thinking about their own things, without regard that their theology does not fit the experience of the grassroot.

My brief reflection on true theology

My reflection on this is this, that as theologians, it is our responsibility to be able to make sense of the experiences that the normal day Christians experience, whether it is the descriptive or prescriptive. It is not so much that experience must determine where your theology heads towards. It is more on your theology must be able to account for the experience. Whether God meant the experience to be normative or normal, it must take them into account. As Simon Chan said, it is only when theologians are able to find the words to articulate the experience of the laity that true theology has occurred.

This is an enormous task for both the laity and the theologians. For the latter, this means that they need to realise that theology is not just a thought exercise. It must also be tested out in real life. To me, theology has no such separation as theory and practice. All theologies must have logical implications on our Christian living. It may sound abstract but theologians draw out these implications.

For the laity, on the other hand, this means that they must accept that their experience may not be the prescriptive experience that the Scripture describes. They need to be willing to adjust along the way to align their lives according to the Scripture. This is true theology at its deepest application. 

This is only a short reflection. I hope to post a longer reflection on this in the future. Feel free to share with me what you think about this in the comments.