Thursday, June 26, 2014

Introducing Theologian Thursday

Today I'm starting a new feature here at Authentic Light called Theologian Thursday! Don't all cheer at once.

Every Thursday I will haul in a famous theologian and have her or him discuss a topic that is -- or should be -- important to people interested in following Jesus of Nazareth. I know this sounds thrilling and I'll have a ready-made audience (Note: sarcasm) but I probably ought to explain it a little anyway.

As we've discussed elsewhere, Jesus entrusted his movement with a series of revelations -- God communicating with humans throughout history -- of which he himself is the ultimate one. His revelation -- his life, death, resurrection, and teaching -- is the key to understanding all the other revelations that came before. The things God revealed over time to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and all the rest are only fully grasped by looking at them through the lens of the appearance of the Messiah -- through the lens of Jesus and what he himself revealed about God. He explained this plainly to his apostles before he left (Gospel of Luke 24.26-27 and 44-48), and he gave examples throughout his career (see basically the entire Gospel of Matthew for that).

But what he didn't do is write a detailed, systematic, exhaustive explanation of his doctrines or a complete commentary on the Old Testament. Instead he left us with the revelation embodied basically in the Bible. He left us the Holy Spirit "who will lead you into all truth" (Gospel of John 16.13). And he left us... theologians.

Why Theologians?

Theologians are a little like scientists: the data a scientist studies is the universe and they just have to take it the way it is, rough edges, mysteries and all, and do the hard work needed to understand it.

A theologian's data is God's revelation encapsulated in the Bible. It's presented to us in a wondrous hodge-podge of history dealing with family squabbles, history dealing with geopolitical squabbles, laws, poems, philosophical discussions, prophetic announcements, erotic songs, letters, laments over fallen cities and fallen people. And above it all, Jesus Christ. Theologians are the people who dedicate their lives to understanding and explaining it all.

On Theologian Thursdays I'll be bringing in the cream of the crop (living and dead), the acknowledged experts in their fields and let them take the floor. I'm using a very wide definition of  a "theologian" that includes not just scholars but regular preachers, authors, hymn writers, mystics, and just regular people who studied, thought, prayed, and contributed something about God and what he has revealed to humanity. Also, there's no time limit: these theological musings may be one brief paragraph or stretch into the blog equivalent of pages and pages (not usually though).

What We're Looking For

Some theologians, like some car repairmen, are better than others. Some are only good on one subject and not terribly impressive or downright misleading in other areas. And of course some are just awful, no matter what their advertising may say.

As you've probably guessed if you've read this blog for a while, my criteria for picking theologians is ordinary, everyday, garden variety Christianity. Or to put it another way, the stuff that was taught by Christ to his Apostles, passed on by them to the Christian Movement, and it's ramifications largely unfurled and explained by around AD 400. That doesn't mean we'll only invite theologians from that era, just that we want people who teach the consensus reached by the Christian Movement doing the hard work of theology during that time. To put it a third way, simple, historical, authentic Christianity. Fortunately (providentially?), there are and have been many around who teach that.

First Up

Our first Thursday theologian, who will be posted about 2 hours from now, is Dr. Georgia Harkness on providence and a God who is personal.

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