>The heart of this message is to determine where we begin when it comes to theological reflection. Clearly, Scripture is the priority, but this post assumes Scripture is where we start. The question is – how do we develop our theological framework? Where do we start with our theology?

I am fully aware that it has been a long time since my last post. For the handful of people that check frequently, I apologize. As many of you may know, the past few months have been consumed with transition, and some things have fallen by the wayside – no matter how important I think they should be. One such item has been my wrestling with Scripture and theological matters in a medium where I can pour out my thoughts. Hopefully this will be more of a priority in the coming days/weeks/months/years. That being said, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about theology.

Theology is often ignored. We develop our belief systems without giving them a thorough perusal when it comes to the consistency of our beliefs. In other words, many people hold to contradicting ideas without realizing that they are contradicting. It is only in the midst of conversation that the inconsistencies come up and by then the whole issue is confusing and we are often left embarrassed. The ironic thing is that even when we do really think about what we believe, we do not often catch the inconsistencies. Do not worry, it is perfectly natural. What I want to try to do is examine where I sit when it comes to theology. This, like most major studying projects I endeavor to complete without deadline or grade, will probably go unfinished. But at least I am trying to get my theological juices flowing once again.

The best place to begin when it comes to theology is the most obvious – the beginning. Now, all theology has to be embedded in Scripture. In fact, there can be no truly Christian theology that is not. Scripture is the means by which God has been revealed throughout the centuries. Does this mean that God is not revealed through our daily experiences, the traditions of the Church or through our natural facility of reason? No, of course not, but it is through Scripture that these other three must be examined.

A couple of decades ago, there was a movement among the Methodists that centered on the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” or WQ for the rest of this post. Now whether or not it was intended, the WQ was used to place Scripture, Reason, Experience and Tradition on a level playing field. This is a gross misunderstanding of Wesley, as well as the general direction of Wesleyan theology for most of the past 250 years. Wesley understood Scripture as the ultimate measure of theology. If something in one of the other three did not match up, then there is something wrong with our interpretation of the other three – not with Scripture itself. However, with that all being said, I do not want to go too far down the path of Scripture’s place in theology just yet – the time is not right. The basic assumption throughout the rest of this post is that Scripture is the ultimate means by which God is made known in our day and age. Now, with that assumption in place, where do we begin in developing a theological framework? Where do we start when it comes to theology? We start with where God has been revealed.

I am beginning to read Dennis Kinlaw’s Let’s Start With Jesus, and this is going to have a major impact on the words that will follow, and certainly any of the thoughts in some of the upcoming posts. As we read Scripture, God has been revealed in several ways over the centuries. God was revealed to Abraham in the promises of Genesis. God was revealed to Moses in the burning bush. God was revealed to Isaiah in the Temple. But God has not been more fully revealed than in Jesus Christ. Any understanding of God that is not rooted in the revelation of Jesus Christ is necessarily going to fall short.

The Gospel of John begins by the writer taking the words of the creation story found in Genesis 1:1ff and revisioning them in light of Jesus Christ. Instead of “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). Creation happens in John’s account as well, but it understands this creation as occuring through the eternal Word. This was a revolutionary idea in first century Judaism.

“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God; the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This is known as the Shema, the monotheistic cry of Israel. Israel was alone in its monotheism in ancient times. Even today, one can only find three forms of monotheism – Judaism, Islam and Christianity, but in antiquity, it was relatively unheard of for there to only be one God. But as one continues to read John’s gospel, one begins to see that this monotheism is taking a new turn. It is being reinterpreted in light of Jesus Christ. Kinlaw writes,

The key phrase in Genesis 1 is ‘and God said.’ It is significant that the Hebrew word used for God (Elohim) is plural while the verb for ‘said’ (wayyo’mer) is singular. In there beginning there was one God, but in that oneness there was a richness that a singular noun had difficulty conveying. With God was his Word, and the Word had its own distinctness. Thus, John could amplify the Genesis account and tell us that creation was the work of the Word of God (23).

It is clear by the end of the gospel that there is a unique relationship between the Son and the Father. The monotheistic cry of the Jews does not change (remember, the early Christians still considered themselves to be Jews), but it takes on a new light. No longer is God understood to be a single monad, but rather, God is understood by the end of the first century Christians to be Triune – three-in-one. It is the great mystery of faith.

So, where do we begin with our theology? It only makes sense that our theology begins with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the full representation of the Father, and our understanding of the Father needs to be re-evaluated in light of Jesus. So, as Dr. Kinlaw suggests, let’s start with Jesus.

Just some musings from a traveling pilgrim.

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