Outline of an emerging theology
The simple premise behind this website is that an emerging church needs an emerging theology. Such a theology will not appear overnight: it will be the product of a multitude of conversations, some of them scholarly, many of them informal and unrecorded. From listening to some of those conversations, however, it seems to me that we can begin to identify some of the key features of an emerging theology. This is a very personal, and no doubt idiosyncratic, overview – others will see things differently, and I hope that they will contribute to the discussion.
1. There will be less need to have recourse to a doctrine of inerrancy in order to safeguard Christian truth. We will develop an approach to Scripture that is both critical and committed. We will find more honest ways to manage the beliefs and ideas that determine the Christian worldview.
2. The relocation of Jesus within the political-religious landscape of first century Judaism will generate a concrete and compelling narrative core for an emerging theology.
3. New Testament teaching about the end of the age and the ‘coming of the Son of man’ will be recentred on the period of crisis that saw the destruction of Jerusalem, the defeat of institutional Roman opposition to the church, and the emergence of an international people of God. This recentering of eschatology will have important implications not only for how we interpret heaven and hell but also for our understanding of the role of the church in the world.
4. The ‘post-eschatological’ church will recover a sense of its place within both creation and human history. We will need to develop a corporate and individual spirituality that is both more holistic and more expansive.
5. Salvation will be understood not as qualifying people for heaven but as incorporating those who are prepared to be disciples into a community which in all respects draws its identity and purpose from Christ as Lord. Jesus died so that not only Jews but also Gentiles might enjoy the life of the ‘age to come’, but this life is experienced now through the power of the Spirit in the context of a renewed covenant community.
6. The purpose of the church is given in the covenant to Abraham: to be blessed by God, but on the basis of that to be a blessing to those outside the covenant. This purpose is fulfilled not primarily by bringing people into the covenant but by giving healing and justice and compassion to the world.
7. A community that has a clear sense of its relationship to the one God and of its calling to serve the world, will affirm humanity’s natural instinct for God and for goodness outside the boundaries of the covenant. At the heart of the church there will always be the dynamic of forgiveness, worship and prayer. But in many respects it is what happens outside the church that will be more interesting, where the sacred and the secular overlap and become confused.
8. It is on the basis of faith that people become part of the covenant people and share in the promise given to Abraham. But any community that claims to be the people of God must understand itself as a servant, called by God to be a light to the nations. We have, therefore, a responsibility to do the work of God in the world and will be held accountable for this in a final judgment.