By Joe LaGuardia
Over the next few weeks, I would like for you to journey with me into a field that we rarely explore in the everyday interactions of church life: the discipline of theology. Theology is often neglected because we think it is a topic that is too esoteric or cerebral to confront; however, I believe that theology is something that we do all the time.
Whenever we reflect on our faith or figure out how our faith applies to our daily living, we are doing theology.
I know that when we speak of theology, it is hard to not feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of history and heritage that gets pulled into perspective from over two millennia of Christian tradition. Theology is a fluid and evolving discipline.
And there have been those who have tried to control theology and turn it into a scientific equation in which all the pieces fit into a perfect jig-saw puzzle; even systematic theology has shown the wear of time as Modernity fades into human history.
Writing about theological trends, therefore, requires a great amount of humility and an even greater amount of skepticism. When all things are said and done, establishing trends is like trying to swat a fly–God always seems to elude us at the last minute, right when we think we have Him figured out!
The future of Christianity and of theology is changing as more voices clash for publicity rights and audiences, tenures and lectureships. Nevertheless, over the next several weeks, I would like to take a stab at what I think the future holds when it comes to Christian theology and the Church.
I should define theology before I continue: Theology is a conversation with the Trinity in which humans try to catch a glimpse of how God is at work in their personal lives, in the world, and in all of history.
With that said, trends in theology are shifting from a science-based approach (systematic theology) to a global approach, letting in perspectives from a vast amount of church traditions and regional contexts. The first trend I would like to explore in this article starts from the broad perspective of globalism:
Theology is taking on a global phenomenon in which the West (Europe and North America) is no longer determining what the purpose of Christ’s Church is for the rest of the world. In The Next Christendom, author Philip Jenkins argues that the southern, global hemisphere is becoming a hotbed for Christian growth, evangelism, and (naturally) theology and ecclesiology.
The epicenter of Christian thought is moving from the cathedrals of Europe to the village churches of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
In addition, Christians in North America are catching on to a global worldview. Ecological, humanitarian, and economic concerns are striking the hearts and imagination of Christians who are hungry to change the world. Rick Warren, as one example of a global-bound Christian, is leading a whole new generation of socially-conscious Christians into places like Africa to help the most impoverished and marginalized of people.
Christians are also heading to China, Japan, and India to live among people that have the potential to know Christ through a stranger. Theology will take on a global hue as cultural diffusion continues to shape the “melting pot” of an increasingly mobile world.
In our community we can see how globalism is shaping society. We are a multiethnic and multihued society that makes room for various perspectives and approaches to worship, church life, culture, ethics and social justice. The internet is also making the world a smaller, more connected place.
Many people fear globalism, but my deepest conviction is that globalism will be an asset in the larger vision of evangelism and missions when it comes to spreading the Gospel.