given on Sunday, July 17, 2011
This is the first of three sermons based on the concept of John Holloway’s three divisions of theology: having theology, doing theology, and living theology.
Theology is not a lightweight, summer conversation topic, but it is a topic we deal with almost daily and at least weekly when we arrive at church. Looking at the word alone, it really means the study of god—not necessarily God as we Christians define it. Yet, theology might be a broader concept than that.
We can say we know God. We can say we believe in God. But can we say what our personal theology is?
Today we begin looking at theology in a different way. Today we are going to evaluate what we say is our theology—note this is not the study of God, rather a study of what we have as our belief. Theology is going to be a conversation topic, even in the middle of a heat advisory. [Not the devil’s type of heat, but the atmospheric hot, dry spell the meteorologists are following.]
First, look in your hymnals at the “Affirmations of Faith” section, beginning with number 880. Just by scanning through the various pages, you may be surprised to learn that there are more versions listed there than just the Apostles’ Creed. I admit that I knew two or three of them were included in those pages, but I did not realize how many additional ones were listed:
- No. 880 The Nicene Creed
- No. 881 The Apostles’ Creed (traditional version)
- No. 882 The Apostles’ Creed (ecumenical version)
- No. 883 A Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada
- No. 884 A Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church
- No. 885 A Modern Affirmation
- No. 886 The World Methodist Social Affirmation
- No. 887 Affirmation from Romans 8:35, 37-39
- No. 888 Affirmation from I Corinthians 15:1-6 and Colossians 1:15-20
- No. 889 Affirmation from I Timothy 2:5-6, 1:15, 3:16
Each one is a statement of one’s belief. Other Christians spanning the globe share the beliefs, and we use them in common worship. Yet the question before us is whether or not we know our personal theology.
In today’s conversation, consider that theology is more a conversation about God rather than a study of God. The language of that statement may not seem so radical, but as a teacher who uses the Greek and Latin roots to teach students how to decode words, changing the definition of theology from ‘study of’ to a ‘conversation about’ is difficult. And, I admit it is not a self-developed approach to theology. This shift is attributed to the text, A Critical Introduction to the New Testament, by Carl R. Holladay.
Yes, it is part of the assigned reading for the Course of Study, but it presented such a new point of view that I feel a conversation about God is where we need to start to understand just what seed of faith we have within us. What is it that grows into the faith we have today or hope to have tomorrow?
Holloday divides theology into three different levels: having, doing, and living theology. Again, I see a shift in understanding of the term theology. How can a word have three phases that are action words! The idea that there are three different types of theology intrigues me and I am eager to have a conversation about them. The conversation is going to take my seed of faith and grow it.
Today, let’s look at the having theology phase. Here is where we have to ask ourselves can I say what I believe. Having theology, according to Holloday, is being mentally aware of what you believe and being able to state what that belief is. The affirmations in the hymnal are statements of belief. We have been raised on these affirmations. Most of them are familiar and we may or may not have them memorized, but I suspect if we were asked what we believe, most of us would state what we hear in our minds straight from the Apostles’ Creed.
Look at that creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from then he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen
The creed is a result of the early church’s attempt to state what Christianity is. The history of the creed is not clearly defined as the first church council was in Acts, but it is a compilation of fundamental, common elements of our faith. There have been other creeds written, but The Apostles’ Creed remains the most commonly accept statement of Christian faith and is accepted by virtually every sect of Christianity.
Having a theology begins with the basic principles outlined in the Apostles’ Creed. If we are able to state the creed, we are having a theology. If we know about it and believe it, we have theology. If we have theology, what is next?
We need to talk about that. We need to look over the statements in the Apostles’ Creed, but maybe more importantly we need to “study” the other creeds, too. We must be able to know our personal theology in order to grow our faith. There is nothing right or wrong with our personal theology, we just need to know it and then figure out what we are doing with it.
Over the next few Sundays, we are going to continue the conversation about God. We are going to talk about what having our theology is versus doing theology or living theology. We want to be capable of expressing what we believe in order to share our faith with others.
I believe in God. I acknowledge that the world we live in has evolved from God’s world.
I believe in Jesus Christ—God, born by Mary, a virgin, who lived as a man for 33 years teaching, healing, and demonstrating how God’s grace and love makes a difference.
I believe in the Holy Spirit—the form of God working in each and every one of us to share God’s grace and love.
I love God. I love life. I love one another.
My theology is my operating system in this world. How I know God is to serve. How I God is how I live.
Dear Heavenly Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
Be with us today and everyday.
Join us in our conversation to know our faith.
Hear our concerns and confusion about our faith.
Teach us how to express our faith in words, in actions, in life. –Amen