Theology vs. Praxis

    I’ve been thinking this morning about a statement that Brad made in the comments to the previous post: ” Christianity
is more like gymnastics than geometry.   The point is that
Christianity is learned by doing, and entering into the story is the
activity of living every aspect of the life of Christ and not the
process of building a powerfully structured house of ideas and axioms.

    I like that…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about
this concept of “entering into the story” and what that means. 
When I’ve tried to introduce this line of thinking to people in the
church they look at me like I’m speaking Klingon
(not that I actually speak Klingon, mind you…).  “What are you
talking about…enter into the story?”  They (we) understand the
story as a set of ideas, beliefs, or as Brad says, “axioms,” that we
are supposed to learn.  Once we get the theology down and make
sure that we’ve got all of the right boxes checked — we’re in! 
We’ve arrived!  Now all we have to do is teach it to others and
wait for the day of the Big Test and we’ll pass with flying colors and
get into Heaven!  (That’s the point, right, getting into
Heaven…or maybe it’s the reverse — saving our butts from the eternal
fires of Hell. )
    I started thinking, after reading Brad’s comment,
that Jesus spent less time teaching theology and more time teaching
people how to practice what they preach.  When Jesus starts
talking judgement issues in Matthew 25 his focus is not on correct
theology but on practice.  “What did you DO with the talents I
gave you?”  “How did you treat the people around you that were in
need?”  He flavors the Sermon on the Mount with statements like,
“whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great…” and “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is
like a wise man….”  In other words, if we can’t put hands and
feet on our theology then there’s no point to it!  That’s entering
the story.  The fruit of the spirit rots on the vine of theology
unless it is lived out.  (Makes for a great 9 week study, but it’s
tough to model love, joy, peace…)
    My question becomes this…how do we (pastors and
church leaders) transition from teaching geometry to gymnastics? (I
refuse to wear spandex!!!  At least in public…Psychotic.
We’ve been trained by our schools and asked by our institutions to
teach the Christian life en-masse which means classes, seminars,
retreats, etc.  But the “teaching model” that we need to be using
is the one that Jesus used — hang out with a few friends in community,
live the story, and let that spill over.  Where I get stuck on
this question is in the transition.  I want to pour my life into
people!  I want to invest a lot in a few who in turn do the
same!  I want depth!  I want relationship!  But I spend
my time preparing for the next performance (sermon, class, etc.) 
    Gymnastics coaches spend time doing hands-on
training.  They are there to catch students when they fall. 
They are there to celebrate when the routine turns out a perfect
10.  They are giving hugs on the sidelines and crying as they
carry off their injured warriors.  They are just as concerned with
the individual as they are with the team.  It’s an up-close
job.  It can’t be taught from a podium or a pulpit.  We’ve
got to get close enough to smell the sweat and hear the heartbeat of
those that we work with.  But to do that we’ve got to be released
from the numbers game and the need to perform. 
    Where’s Bella Karolly when you need him?


~ by Chris Green on November 1, 2004.

3 Responses to “Theology vs. Praxis”

  1. WOW. Totally!! Thanks for the props. I will make a post on this (actually a link to an old post). This is THE epistemology issue that I think is the root cause of the old problem and its solution is what I think the 21st Century Reformation is all about. My mantra is “observation, imitation, codification” That is the discipleship method of Jesus!!!This is IT!! The big paradigm shift.God Bless,brad

  2. Chris,No deep theological response from me. I just think it would be cool if you did learn klingon.

  3. I’ll learn that right after I learn HTML. Actually, aren’t they pretty similar? It’s all GEEK to me!

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