I was talking to a friend the other night who commented that it was really good to take calculus and physics at the same time — to get both the theoretical and the practical. I commented that I wasn’t so good at Physics (and little enjoyed it) but was good at calculus (and enjoyed it). I noted that I have generally preferred the abstract for the hard, practical, physical — I am, after all, contemplating studying the intricacies of Christology.* She said that she’s not really one for the abstract.
And theology, as we understand it usually, is the work of armchair scholars, of people spending enormous amounts of time poring over Scriptures and scholars, and then thinking really hard about it. According to Greta Vosper, a Torontonian United Church minister, how we live is more important than what we believe. So does theology really matter? To take up last post’s thoughts, does Chalcedonian Orthodoxy really matter?
I mean, Christians are followers of the Way, aren’t we? People who live by the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, right? This means we should have a particular lifestyle, to follow, in the words of the first-century Didache, the Way of Life, rather than the Way of Death. How does Jesus having two natures really affect our ability to live by the following?
Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there, if you love those who love you? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone gives you a blow upon your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes away your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to every one that asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). (Didache I)
I’m not entirely sure, to tell you the truth. However, according to a Tozer quote that I recorded somewhere, what we think of when we think of God is the most important thing about us. This is to say that “Who is God?” is a question of vital importance. For example, when we see that God is Trinity, we discover that
personhood is tied up intimately with community, and with complementarity of Persons: the Trinity, a community of irreducible Persons in complementarity and love, is our bedrock in understanding what it is to be alive. This leads us back to our understanding of Christian spirituality: authentic spirituality is the characteristic of a person in Christ who has enough wisdom and insight regarding self and other, and enough love and strength through the Spirit, that he or she can dare to be “ek-static” and so to enter into true intimacy with “the other”, an intimacy that will include both word and silence. (Edith M. Humphrey, Ecstasy and Intimacy, 64)
A belief in the Trinity drives us to community, intimacy, and communion. It frees us up to enter into vulnerable communion and commingling with one another, knowing that, as persons made in the image of the triune God, we were made for this.
Furthermore, it is only by the grace of God we can live the truly sacrificial life of love and joy that is laid out for us by the various injunctions of Christ found in the Gospels. If we do not trust in the true, living God, we are wilfully cutting ourselves off from His grace. As Miroslav Volf points out in Free of Charge, God showers his grace and forgiveness on us, it is our job to receive it with willing hands. If we do not take the gift given, we cannot benefit from it.
Our theology should fuel our prayer and our worship. What we think of God influences how we worship, how often we worship, how we pray, how often we pray. The Arian worships a Christ who is not even God. Thus, in his heart, he is an idolater, even though the One he worships is perfect God. On the other hand, if we look at Christ and fall into the purported error of Eutyches, we see someone who did not taste fully of humanity, someone who had only a heavenly body. Thus, we are praying to a distant being, a God who only humbled himself so far.
Prayer and worship are how God fuels us for his mission on Earth. True theology brings us to a place of true worship. May we all ponder the greatness and beauty of our God.
And so Chalcedonian orthodoxy does matter. By the statement of faith made by the bishops in 451, we declare ourselves committed to a God who is so mighty that he was able to become one of us without diminishing his glory yet without compromising his humanity. This is the mighty, awesome God whom we worship. This belief should fuel us to humble ourselves, to go into the deepest, darkest, saddest corners of humanity to raise up the fallen and brokenhearted, to set captives free, and live out the Way of Life as citizens of the Kingdom of the Heavens here on earth.
Theology. Who cares?
*Although good at musical and dancing theory, those are two of the areas where I greatly prefer the practical. Also in worship and the Eucharist, although I enjoy the theories and theologies surrounding them, for they help deepen my mind’s engagement with the actions.