St. John’s Baptist Church

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Does Theology Matter?

by Dennis W. Foust, Senior Minister

My first college class in theological study introduced me to several theologians and traditions of thought that stretched my mind. Our assignments included reading passages written by theologians from the first twenty centuries of Church history. Our professor guided us to read the content of each theologian within the historical context of their lifetime. It was interesting to see how each century offered theological insights and practices which were more progressive than previous centuries as culture shifted.

This memory surfaced again recently during a conversation about today’s progressive theology. A friend who has never studied theology and who admitted that he doesn’t like to read made this remark, “I’m not sure theology matters anymore. I just try to do the best I can.”

First of all, let me say that I like and appreciate my friend. He is a fine person. He truly cares about other people. He tries to understand how issues in society interface. In his own way, he thinks deeply. But he is like so many people who are cultural Christians these days, He respects the Christian tradition. He is a leader in his church which is in the Presbyterian tradition. He is an open-hearted and open-minded person. However, my friend suggested he had no interest in theology.

So, following our conversation, I wrote him a note suggesting that he consider how he is living out progressive theology. Then I offered him the following foundational statements that describe how progressive theology is practiced every day by people like him who claim to be Christian but think they do not connect with theology. Maybe you can also resonate with these statements. I hope so. I know theology matters. It guides the way we live. Even if the following statements do not represent your practice of theology, my pastoral prayer is that you will consider how you live out your foundational commitments.

You practice progressive Christian theology if you:

  • Try to follow the way of life taught and exemplified by Jesus.
  • Are convinced that learning how to follow Jesus brings integrity to your life and
  • saves the world from pursuit of destructive and evil actions.
  • Embrace how the Spirit of God works through a variety of faith traditions.
  • Invest yourself in a community of faith that is inclusive of all people.
  • Honor diversity of humanity expressed in race, age, sexual orientation, gender
  • identity/expression, class, or ability.
  • Strive for peace and justice among all people.
  • Express compassion (make room in your heart) toward other people.
  • Accept the findings of modern science.
  • Make efforts to protect the environment and care for the Earth’s sustainability.
  • Commit to life-long learning exploring questions that arise in life’s ambiguities.

Beloved, this summer we are focusing on the kind of Church needed by today’s world. One of the ways we can be God’s people today is to live with integrity between our foundational commitments and our lifestyles. Our discipleship requires no less.