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Building a Christian Faith

SCRIPTURE
TRADITION
EXPERIENCE
REASON
IT TAKES ALL TO BUILD A CHRISTIAN FAITH

Another chapter in the life of the United Methodist Church took place this past week as the 2019 General Conference voted to retain all of the negative language regarding the LGBTQ participation in the life of the denomination and added punitive language in an attempt to stop those who don’t observe the “law.” The long and painful saga continues with a variety of motivations including power, greed, biblical fundamentalism, lack of understanding of human sexuality identity, hate of inclusion of all persons, and many more.

The Discipline of the denomination also contains a very power statement about “Our Theological Task.” It is a task of testing, renewal, elaboration, and application as we, both lay and clergy discern the Christian truth in an ever-changing environment of the world’s needs and challenges.

Let me quote and/or summarze just a few principles that will help us understand our task.
Our theological task in both critical and constructive: Are various expressions of the faith true? Appropriate? Clear? Cogent? Credible? Are they based on love? Are they faithful to the gospel? Every generation must use wisdom to think afresh about God, sin, redemption, freedom, Church, justice, etc.

Our theological task is both individual and communal: As individuals our theological inquiry must involve us in study, reflection and prayer. It is a responsibility of each person, not just scholars. It unfolds in conversations open to the experiences, insights and traditions of all United Methodists. It is about dialogue with many, but also the responsibility of each.

Our theological task is contextual and incarnational: It is grounded in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and energized by our incarnational involvement in the daily life of the Church and the world as we participate in God’s liberating and saving action.

Our theological task is essentially practical: It informs the individual’s daily decisions and serves the Church’s life and work. But we measure the truth of such statements in relation to their practical significance and how we can incorporate the promises and the gospel into our daily lives.

Remember these words found in this section of the Discipline:
“John Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. …The interaction of these sources and criteria in Wesley’s own theology furnishes a guide for our continuing theological task as United Methodists. In that task Scripture, as the constitutive witness to the wellsprings of our faith, occupies a place of primary authority among these theological sources.
In practice, theological reflection may also find its point of departure in tradition, experience, or rational analysis. What matters most is that all four guidelines be brought to bear in faithful, serious, theological consideration. Insights arising from serious study of the Scriptures and tradition enrich contemporary experience. Imaginative and critical thought enables us to understand better the Bible and our common Christian history.”

I encourage everyone to do more reading and study about the theological task that is part of being a Christian. Just because “the Bible says so” is not adequate for the world we live in. God continues to reveal God’s-self in God’s promised newness.

Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence

 

Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.