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split personality theology February 17, 2007

Posted by Cobus in Emerging Church, theology.

Stephan’s comment triggered some thoughts I’ve been having for a while now. Theologians sometimes have this idea that if you know enough about a persons ideas on certian topics, then you can predict what he’s opinions will be on something else. This was actually claimed by one of my lecturers once.

But I doubt if we can keep on doing this, especially if we stick to the traditional categories, be it fundamentalist/liberal, conservative/liberal, evangelical/ecumenical. Every person is a mix and match of theological ideas and opinions. Most of us don’t have a complete system worked out where everything we say always make sense in relation to the other stuff we have said at other times.

We suffer from an acute case of a split theological personality. And we consider it normal. We don’t need to fit into one group, but can learn from different group. It’s not really possible to place us, because no traditional group really want us, because we also share some ideas from the “opposition”. I think this is the description that will fit more and more emerging theologians.

Is this a problem? I don’t think so. I think it’s a bigger problem if someone change their ideas on stuff to try to fit him/herself into a theological “group”. The more honest way is to admit what our ideas are, and why, and converse about that, even if it doesn’t make sense when compared to our collection of other ideas.

Anyhow, maybe that doesn’t make sense.

We are currently having our Deo Gloria first years camp. Deo Gloria is the name for the organization representing the theological students of the Dutch Reformed Church at TUKS. Kind of got me thinking. What is it that we would like to give first year theological students when they start out? What would you like to give them?



1. Stephen - March 1, 2007

Hi Cobus – i think you’re right. I was sitting in a course on advanced missions the other day and we were discussing David Bosch’s critique of the ecumenical movement and of the evangelical movement. Now technically I’m supposed to be an evangelical – if you strip it back to the core essentials of evangelicalism – but here I was agreeing with all of Bosch’s criticism and scratching my head as to just how evangelical I really am. Then I realised that it also comes down to popular usage of terms because very few terms are used today the way the were when the terms were conceptualized. So yes I am an evangelical, but I’m also not an evangelical – make sense?

2. cobus - March 2, 2007

I’m still trying to understand David Bosch, but the way I understand him, he’s a great example of someone that didn’t fit the categories. Just came from a friend, actually a family friend, whom I haven’t seen in years. Within the first 10 minutes of our conversation he said that he heard our faculty was quite liberal. I just said that depends on what you understand as liberal and conservative. But on his bookshelf stoof Transforming Mission, and I thought to myself that most probably this book will contain the type of “liberal” stuff he has issues with, but it will also contain a lot of stuff he absolutely agree with. It just doesn’t work trying to devide the world into these simple categories. But then again, as someone once said very wisely, we need to categorize people, otherwise we cannot have a conversation. We need to put people into groups to make things less complicated. But then we need to remember that no one will fit completely, or that some will fit in more than one “group”. However, we will need to create totally different categories, but I’m still wondering what these categories will be, and even then, no person will fit completely.

3. Stephen - March 3, 2007

Yet the categories were originally put in place to show that people affirmed and denied certain aspects of each others point of view and so whilst I’m not really pro categorizing everyone into neat little boxes there are still things that i feel i need to affirm and deny based on my understanding of God and the Scriptures. Even Bosch, according to my lecture who studied under him, would have denied many of the hallmarks of ‘classic liberalism’ as I would today. I think its important that people be able to dialogue meaningfully yet still be able to affirm and deny aspects of each other’s theology and praxis.

4. cobus - March 3, 2007

I think the purpose of categories were to show who is right and who is wrong. You were tagged because of a certain collection of dogma’s you ticked of, or didn’t tick of.
I we really need to group people together, I think it need to be according to the way we work, and to what is important to who. Not what it right and what is wrong. But what will you bring to the conversation.

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