Highs and Lows in Christian Theology

To know God is the highest goal of humankind. Theology is really The-ology, the highest thinking, the highest study, the highest knowledge. Yet, the human perspective is limited. We cannot fully know God. This would require equality with God. Christianity affirms that Jesus is the one exception, but even he is said to have not considered equality with God as something that could be attained (Philippians 2:6). He taught and modeled God knowledge through lowering of the self in love of the most high God by serving the lowest among human beings, even as far as death on the cross, among the thieves and murderers. Jesus has a way of turning The-ology on its head.

Of course, this is one particular understanding of the life and mission of Jesus drawn from the source of the Christian scriptures, one common among the Anabaptist tradition that I speak from. This has historically been a minority voice within Christianity as a whole, though ardent proponents of this view assert that it is true to what the earliest Christians believed before the faith’s accommodation to empire under the auspices of Constantine. I am not sure this is a convincing argument as we do not have time machines to go back and find out exactly what the earliest Christians believed. We may just as easily find out that the conversion of the Roman Empire was one of their goals (i.e. “make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19]).

Christian theology has always been a messy business because it is deeply rooted in the human experience, which it affirms as fallen, incomplete, in need of redemption. The human experience cannot be trusted, but it is all we have with which to approach God through Jesus Christ. We do have sources outside of experience to help us in this task (reason, tradition, scripture, Jesus/God [we might even say in order of hierarchy from least to greatest]), but all colored by our experience. Our theology can never escape our humanity and it is dangerous to believe that it can. Jesus points us back to ourselves and our greatest need, to find God in our lowest times when we feel lost and forsaken, without hope in the world. The-ology without the humility to be like Jesus is really an empty bag.

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