Don’t let your theology migrate north

My challenge to you is to learn from the mistakes of your Presbyterian, Episcopalian,  and Methodist forbears: Don’t let your theology migrate north – and by “north,” I mean up, from the heart to the head, from the streets to the ivory tower.  Forget about trying to impress the Ivy Leaguers – they’re the past, not the future.  And forget about “trickle-down” modes of theological education, where the smartest person in the room teaches the next one down, and so on and so on.  That, too, is the past.  Instead, learn how to blog.  Tweet your theology.  Write popular books instead of monographs.  In other words, teach everyday people how to think theologically.

From Tony Jones’ recent paper, which was presented at the Society for Pentecostal Studies.

4 thoughts on “Don’t let your theology migrate north

  1. I do not know that I would express that in exactly the same way. All Christians need to wrestle with God. To question. To strive for a greater understanding of their relationship with God. If we do not we end up with a faith that will not stand up to hardship. We end up with a faith that falters in the face of seeming rational arguments put forward by armchair atheists.

    God gave us brains in addition to hearts… I think he probably did so with the intention of us using both. Some of the “Ivy Tower” theology really is beneficial. Without the efforts of Biblical historians to understand what the Bible is actually saying we would have a far more limited understanding of some of the messages.

    An example of this is the typical Evangelical attitude to the word “repent”. Many people see repentance as an act of reliving past sins. Many feel that it involves pennance of some kind or that remorse is a necessary component. A more acurate description of the word repent is “to turn and see anew”. It is not about grovelling or begging forgiveness. It is about recognizing that despite our past behaviors, despite or broken nature, despite our self centered motivation… God loves us. It is about letting go. It is about finding freedom in the Grace of God that is Jesus.

    Is using social media a valuable way to put theology in the minds of everyday people. Yes. It encourages debate. It encourages discussion. It encourages people to wrestle with God. But to suggest that this is the only forum would rob us of the new perspectives and understandings that come from the indepth and academic study and research done by those in the Ivy Tower.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I agree with what you’re saying.

      I posted this comment for two reasons. First, I grew up in a Pentecostal home, so the paper Tony has presented is very interesting to me in that regard. Second, I also spent several years studying in the “ivory towers” that he references. So I understand his comment from that perspective as well.

      As you may imagine, I’m not anti-intellectual at all — but what Tony says here should be very relevant to Pentecostal scholars. They should take heed. Theology should always be done for the sake of the church and for the sake of the faithful. As I read him, that’s really his main point.

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