It seems over the past three months I have had a number of teenagers and adults ask me where I stand on the “issue” of homosexuality and Christianity. Being a part of the PC(USA) has lent itself to having many of these conversations regarding biblical rightness within our denomination but there’s also been a number of people who are tired of the canned, “I’m pro”, “I’m anti” answers. They want answers that address the gray areas, the uncomfortable middle position many of us stand in when it comes to trying to discern and decipher our theology.
Everyone has some sort of theology because the word theology simply means the study of the nature of God. So if you’ve ever wondered about or have opinions of God, well you have spent time forming some sort of theology. I spend nearly every waking moment processing, studying, or living out my theology, which is why my recent realization came as a huge eye opener.
I was having a conversation with a teenage girl who is faithfully, painfully, and prayerfully trying to form her theology in regards to homosexuality in light of the fact that she has a close family member who is both a follower of Jesus and openly gay. At one point in our conversation I was explaining her the biblical reasons behind my own biblical understanding I realized that something wasn’t sitting right with her. I asked what seemed to be the problem with my answers and she said, “I get what you’re saying, I just don’t know how what you’re saying will sound to [my family member] when I bring it up?”
With that question I realized what was missing with my theology – I had spent hours studying it but in comparison I had only spent a handful of minutes actually practicing this theology. I had no real understanding of the personal implications that my theology had for the people that were the subject of my theology.
This past weekend my wife, Christina, and I spent time questioning, praying, and talking about who we believe God to be in light of our recent loss of our unborn daughter. It was a beautifully rich, and painful, process of wrestling with what we know to be true about God based on scripture and how that actually fits or shapes the realities of our experiences with God. After a few days we both felt like we were able to settle on in a place where our theology of suffering carries both KNOWN and PRACTICED elements. We know what the Bible tells us about suffering and we are able to practice this theology in light of our personal experiences.
I believe that there are two important parts to shaping our understanding of who God is and knowing his heart. The two parts are the Known Theology and the Practiced Theology. We need to be people who pursue God is both aspects of our understanding and practice.
Known simply means the aspects and attributes of God and our calling as followers of Christ that we have come to know through reading scripture. Practiced Theology refers to the aspects and attributes of God and our calling as followers of Christ that we have come to know through our personal relationships and experiences.
All of us have theologies that we’re are defining our lives around but are only shaped by one of these two aspects. We either form theologies devoid of relationships or experiences with the issue or people that we’re forming our theologies around. Which frees us from the burden of negotiating LOVE as a filter in our views. Or we base our views of God solely on our experiences which frees us from the burden of truth.
As Christ followers we’ll never comprehend the full revelation of God through Scripture and we’ll never experience the fullness of humanity so I pray that we may be wise when shaping our understanding of who God is, the desires of his heart, and the realities of his Kingdom come. May those of us who are predominately “KNOWN” theologians seek to place ourselves in potentially uncomfortable positions so that we may practice and see on a heart level the implications of what we believe. And may those of us who are predominately “PRACTICED” theologians bring our world views and experiences to scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us who God is in light of what we’ve seen, heard, and felt.
May we both know that while there are a few areas in our life where we have an equal balance of known and practiced theology, most times the cup of our understanding in only half full and we need others who are often times vastly different than us to help us fill the empty half.