I was out of town this week on a youth service trip and want to thank Micky and Callid for taking S and T in our ABC’s of Theology series.
You can also hear Callid and Kristina Keefe-Perry chat about M N and O on a little TNT podcast. I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify a couple of things before we make the turn toward the final series of letters.
- Respond to questions about the Book of Revelation
- Flesh out my answer in Micky’s video about Salvation
- Explain why I went with ‘theopoetics’ instead of other (more famous) T words
I will do this in reverse order. Callid (and a few FB friends) were questioning the selection of ‘theopoetics’ over words like trinity, theosis and theodicy. We covered trinitarian matters in P is for Perichoresis. While I love the Eastern notion of theosis (becoming like God), this series is really focused on concepts that we need to engage going forward in the 21st century.
I am a big fan of theosis and love those who embrace/reclaim this ancient notion. They are often paired with both mystic appreciation and a commitment to spiritual disciplines.
Theodicy (the problem of evil) is a big one. After the events of the 20th Century – specifically WWII – there can be no doubt about the centrality of evil and human nature to any theological consideration.
- Where is god in all of this?
- Why is our experience so different than the ancients?
- Is it technology?
- It is society?
- Has the world changed?
- Has God changed?
- Has our understanding of God changed?
- Is the world no longer enchanted?
The simple fact is that the 20th Century – between technology and war – changed the world and radically altered what we call society. The reality of living in the 21st century are very different than they were in the 12th – let alone the 2nd. The questions of the 21st century are not answered by repeating inherited answers or by parroting ancient thought.
Farming, hygiene, reading, telephones, banks, travel (airplanes) …. there are thousands of examples of how different our existence is from those in previous centuries. Even the way was imagine our self (identity) and community (belonging) has changed.
So theodicy is a major issue, but I wanted to add something to our theological tool-belt that will help us going forward. Theopoetics is one of the most important ideas – and one of the most vibrant contemporary conversations – that we can engage in. It impacts everything from how we read Genesis and Revelation to how we approach the ancient creeds and how we conceptualize our god-thoughts and convey ourselves in god-talk. That was the thinking behind selecting theopoetics for T.
Salvation: In S is for Salvation Micky shared her video. I provide the opening response and folks had several questions about it.
What we are talking about in salvation happens at 3 levels:
- The Life of the Ages. Jesus talked about it and unfortunately it gets translated into English as ‘eternal life’ which people think happens after death and then have to try and explains how it impacts life here. Some say it starts here and carries on and is intensified after you die. The whole thing is much clearer and more powerful if you call it ‘the life of the ages.’
- Reversal-Restoration-Reconcilation from Eden. The story of Eden shows us three fractures – from God, from each other and from the Earth. Salvation is a process of reconnection and participation in right relationship and the community of creation. Shalom is the word.
- The Jewish notion of Tekkun Olam. This is the restoration of all things. NT Wright has a famous version of this bringing all things to right.
Salvation therefore impacts everyone and everything. It is not only about a tiny part of you (your soul) after it leaves your body. It is about your body and the earth that it comes from … and every other body on that earth.
Revelation: Folks liked my take on the book of Revelation … but then wanted to know what to do with it. Here are some suggestions:
- Enjoy it. Don’t be scared by it. Look into the 2nd century imagery and learn how apocalyptic works as a genre.
- Then take that knowledge and examine Jesus’ statements in the Gospels as well as the second half of Daniel.
- Mess with your friends who have been sold a Left Behind version of faith with historical perspective.
- Give our artists, poets, film-makers and dreamers permission to create political critiques of the 21st century like the author of Revelation did for first two.
Once you are relieved of the notion that Revelation is about the future, you can get down to the series task of examining, critiquing and challenging the existing structures and systems of our day. Tripp and I chat about this stuff for the last 20 min of this week’s TNT.
Later today the podcast for P Q & R will come out.
You can catch up on the whole series below:
ABC Podcast (TNT)
DEF Podcast (TNT)
GHI Podcast (TNT)
Podcast for J K L (TNT)
M is for Metaphor (and metaphysics)
Podcast for M N O (TNT)
Podcast for P Q R (TNT)
Podcast for S T U (TNT)