With the advent of blogs which proclaim various theological points of view, debate (or polite conversation) has become a way of moving forward in discussion. Often, however, the discussion is clouded by problems with terminology (how post-modern!) and questions of method. So, how does one, in a postmodern world, do theology. Outside of established structures of authority, in the context of a plethora of Christian denominations, how do we establish what is the function and nature of theology.
Theological method is a difficult and time consuming past-time. It involves the examination of preconceived foundational ideas. Here are edited excerpts from today’s post from the Bishop of Ballarat’s blog. I use this to show how theology might be done (or actually is done) within Anglicanism. Without a doubt many other examples can be given but this is one I have stumbled across:
The statement was made that the only way a church can be an authentic church is by having the Eucharist every Sunday. That is a theology that I thought had gone out eons ago. … There are tens of thousands of vibrant, thriving, growing, faithful and authentic church all around the world who have Mass only a handful of times each year. It is an absolute nonsense to question their validity of the Church status.
I do not want to make a judgement on the rightness of the above statement. Yet it is interesting that the preconceived idea is that a church needs to be vibrant, thriving, growing, faithful and authentic to really be church. These adjectives are charged with emotion yet come from a background of pragmatism. These practical consequences or real effects establish both meaning and truth. The inquiry starts with what I can see and (maybe?) measure and establishes the nature of the object from that. This appears to me to be the wrong way around. Rather, we need to be attentive to what God has made the Church and see how this reality acts in the world.
Yet, I feel he betrays his confusion later when he writes:
Some of these ministering communities need to explore fully the ecclesiological consequences of some of the things that they are doing. Insisting on weekly Mass is not a way forward.
Yes, weekly Mass does not make the church! But the Church has weekly Mass!