“Theology Matters” was a catch phrase a few seasons ago for Presbyterians (PCUSA). In light of conflicts in the church about spiritual practices, biblical interpretation, personal lifestyles, worship styles, and sexuality issues, the denomination at the time sought to find the root causes of such discord. It seems to all get back to theology; what we believe about God and how we understand those beliefs are being acted out in our lives. I share this work for the edification of the church and not to confront controversy or bolster a particular ‘side’ in ongoing theological matters.
As much as theology matters in how we deal with and understand the current issues of church and society, it is even more vital for the church today to be grounded in good theology for daily living and faith development. To know why we believe this or that, or to understand better what makes our faith tick, can deepen our convictions and better know ourselves in light of God’s saving grace. Knowing the why or the what also helps us understand others in the church, whether it is a Presbyterian church or another denomination. In addition, knowing some basics about theology affords us some leverage when others ask us about our faith story or what we believe about God and godly things. By being better able to articulate one’s own faith, makes contemporary Christians better evangelists especially when we approach the subject in a kinder and gentler fashion. Matthew 10:39 can serve as the theme text for kinder and gentler Calvinists in the 21st Century- If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
In this book, I’ve tried to condense a number of thoughts and insights that I’ve been struggling with as a minister in a society that is both Post-Modern and ‘Post–Christian’. Serving an historic denomination has turned out to be a great vehicle for innovation as it allowed me to offer the church a broader way of doing theology that I believe makes sense in our contemporary life. After all, our Calvinistic roots provide a clarion call for theological innovation. The cry, Reformed and always being reformed has been the motto for Reformed Christians for over five centuries. I’ve used the late Ben Lacy Rose’s very good contemporary view of T.U.L.I.P as a baseline for the series. His insights are priceless. Brian McLaren’s brief mention of a kinder, gentler Calvinism in his book A Generous Orthodoxy serves as the outline for much of the content of the five newer ways to view T.U.L.I.P. He makes it easy to build on his brief musings. In fact, McLaren offers a challenge to denominations to take up his suggestions to update their theology for the 21st Century. I guess this is what I’m trying to do in this book.