When I first contemplated theological education, I was introduced to a book by Catholic theologian Hans Küng, and his book On Being a Christian. My introduction to theological discourse found me sitting with this book in one hand and a dictionary in the other. The latter was not all that helpful because many theological terms were beyond the brief of the average dictionary. It was the beginning of a journey into a new vocabulary, an increased repertoire of words. This experience continues – the discovery that expanding my vocabulary was more than just about use of words, but being exposed to new ways of seeing, new ways of understanding. New words give us new ideas, new ways of seeing and understanding, and therefore new ways of creating.
Recently I have been introduced to the notion that every practice embodies an implied theory. This is another way of saying that everything is an expression of our priorities: what we deem to be important. Sometimes we make choices as a conscious expression of our values, at other times we act more intuitively, but at every turn we are making statements about what is important, and what bears value. To ignore the cries of someone asking us for some money on the street expresses something of our thinking. To fill every waking moment with some activity is to say something about how we value time and stillness. Every act is an expression of an undergirding theory.
When Jesus was challenged about the way he lived his life and the people he related to, he would often challenge the theory on which the criticism was based: “Render to Caesar the things which belong to Caesar, and to God the things which belong to God” is not a statement outlining two areas of authority, but a challenge to his listeners to consider where their ultimate allegiance lay. Similarly to declare that no-one can serve God and Mammon challenged his hearers to consider their choices in terms of what shapes them most: their relationship with God, or the financial implications.
It is foundational to the journey of faith and to developing christian spirituality to reflect upon the values that shape our choices and actions. Only in naming these powers can we be freed from their power, and freed to choose, freed to live as Christ as called us.
February 25, 2007