Doug Pagitt: Embodied Theology
Doug’s chapter was probably one of the strongest in the book I thought. I loved reading Driscoll’s critique of Doug’s chapter: “I find Doug’s chapter the most difficult to respond to…we were assigned to articulate our views on the Trinity, the atonement, and Scripture, and having read Doug’s chapter, I remain uncertain of his position on these issues” (144). Perhaps that’s because Doug is not out to create answers, or to give a cohesive, biblicist response to these theological issues…
Doug has some great quotes in this chapter. Here are some of my favorites:
“Because theology is connected to real life, answering particular questions, concerns and opportunities of the day, it will be ever-changing. If it is not so, then it may well not be theology – it may be dogma, history, or a collection of random facts, but not theology. Theology is the living understanding of the story of God in play with the story of our lives” (121).
“I think it is worth saying again that theology is not the same as the story of God. Far too often, in my opinion, this becomes an issue, and when one disagrees with our theology, we can too easily assume they have abandoned Scripture or the story of God. Theology is explanatory – answering certain questions or addressing certain issues. But it must never be confused with the life of God or the story of God” (123).
These two quotes play into his definitions of theology later in the chapter as being temporary, evolving, participatory, calling for an integrated holism and one that pursues the rhythm of God. Pagitt is also in agreement with Kimball as to the role of the community to be actively involved with theology. If you’ve heard Doug speak recently, you’ve certainly heard him use the phrase, “cauldrons of theological imagination.” That’s his new shtick. And it’s a good one. Here is a paragraph from his chapter:
“We are called to be communities that are cauldrons of theological imagination, not ‘authorized re-staters’ of past ideas. What we have in our communities are not simply people who need to have the gospel applied to their lives, but people who need to know their situation and what the Good News of God means for them. So our job as leaders of communities is not simply to apply the well-founded answers of previous generations’ questions or assumptions to the lives of our people, but rather to guide, extract, and join with the hopes and aspirations deeply embedded by God in the lives of our people” (127).
This is important especially for those of us who are involved in mainline denominations. We are called to be imaginative, theologically, I think. Is it enough to simply tell people what Calvin, Luther or Wesley came up with, theologically? Sure there may have been some similar issues in their day as we currently experience, but we live in vastly different worlds, and we may have questions that they never even would have thought of. I’m with Doug – it’s not enough to simply re-state what we learn in our Systematic Theology courses in seminary, nor is it enough to simply teach people what we find in our Book of Confessions – but we need to be encouraging and calling people to their own theological imaginings. Does that mean that it’s a theological free-for-all? Perhaps. Or maybe not. But does it matter? Does it matter if our congregations are theological-free-for-alls if they are seeking out the rhythm of God and ways in which the story of God and their individual and communal stories interact?