I didn’t become a Christian to gain approval from the theologians, the guild, or editors-in-chief. I became a Christian because I recognized my need for a Savior, and I did so because God recognized my need of a Savior first; thus, He elected my humanity in Christ, became me that I might become Him by the adoption of grace. Jesus, particularly in the Gospel of John, chided the Pharisees for seeking the approval of men rather than God; He said that this made it impossible for them to believe. And yet, even today in our post-Enlightenment 21st c context there are academic theological guilds who largely operate with the same sort of air of attitude and superiority that Jesus chided the Pharisees for. Martin Luther’s theologia gloriae (theology of glory) is largely apropos here as well. He critiqued the schoolmen for building on each other’s “approved” commentaries and ‘Sentences,’ thus seeking the approval of their peers rather than God, and God’s Word. Contemporary Protestant theologians, many who I know, can intellectually acknowledge what I’m saying here, and then self-deprecatingly slink right back into the sort of modern-day theology of glory I am highlighting.
My theological mode is grounded, indeed, in a theology of crisis. That is how the Lord got my attention, it is how He got hold of me in radical ways. I went through a decade (at least) of hard Anfechtung (trial, tribulation), in ways that are too hard to express here. But it was that ‘sentence of death,’ a staurological sentence that has shaped my life as a Christian ever since. I read through the Bible, and theology, incessantly so, because that is the response that sustained me through these dark nights of the soul; and continues to. Because of this, my Christian existence is a deeply personal reality, indeed one that is in fellowship with the communio sanctorum, and thus the God I know, and seek to know, has become deeply personal to me. As such, the theology I do, and the theologies that I’ll approvingly read, are focused on God as Triune, relational, and personalist. The guilded theologians have labeled this, by-and-large, as ‘theistic personalism,’ but I name it Deus absconditus is the Deus revelatus in Jesus Christ; in other words: the ‘hidden God’ is the ‘revealed God’ in Jesus Christ. The God I have come to know over and over again, daily, minute-by-minute, is not the God of the schoolmen, it is not the God of the theologians, it is not the God of the guilds, it is not the God who has been institutionalized in various ecclesial expressions, the God I have come to know through lively encounter, is the God who is the Father of the Son by the Spirit; and the Son, is Jesus Christ.
Often the guilded theologians will look at my “blog posts,” and think just that: ah, how quaint, another blog post. They think further: maybe if this guy would spend more time writing essays and getting them published in peer reviewed theological journals, I would show him more respect. And this attitude, the one I have just portrayed is to the point. Contrariwise, I am of the belief that a person can be a theologian, can avail themselves, even of those who operate as a theologian of glory—that is, their respective insights despite themselves—and continue to resist the sort of institutionalized self-glorifying spirit that animates the world of their relative identity as “theologians for the Church” (as they often claim to be). My theology of crisis has led me into the waters of the theologians, but at the same time it has made me an opponent of the sort of quid pro quo spirit that enlivens so much of the theological guild. It isn’t just that I ‘look out’ and thank God that I am ‘not one of them.’ It is that I look out and realize that precisely because I am one of them that I must live in a constant life of repentance; that I must cling to the crisis (or the crucis) that the crucified life of God in Christ confronts me with afresh and anew in my daily life.
I am a sinner. As such my theology (nostra theologia) is indeed a theology of crisis; my theology is staurological (crucifixion-shaped) because I live a life in the realm of the unseen realities of the Kingdom, but as if seen through the faith of Jesus Christ. As a Christian theologian I live a life longing to be saved from this body of death I continuously inhabit, even as justified before God (simul justus et peccator). I didn’t start this walk coram Deo in front of the theologians, or even in front of the Church, per se; I started this walk as the still small voice of the living God called me to himself, awakened me from my sleep at 2am when I was 3 years old. I came to Him that night, and have known His voice, in various ranges of amplification, ever since. It was years later, through deep crises, allowed and used by God, my Father, wherein I came to the realization that the only approval that mattered came from Him, not others. This is the foundation that ‘He’ has laid, and upon which He continues to build as He transforms me from glory to glory. I am only a pro-fessional theologian insofar that the con-fessional reality of God’s life for me in Jesus Christ conditions my life from moment to moment in this rather desolate existence as a Christian person in the 21st c.
I have written this with hopes that anyone who reads it might come to maybe question what their stance and motives are before God. Do they look down on others, or think that they have a special location in the body of Christ, an elevated station, because of their statuses created by publishing and degrees? Or do they see themselves, instead, through the lens of the cross of Jesus Christ?