The following are two essential foundations for the study of Christian theology:
A Theology of Presence
Christian theology must be rooted in the abiding presence of God. Theology done well flows from authentic relationship. God speaks, God moves, God leads and we respond. Christian theology is initiated by our resurrect Christ through the guiding power of the Holy Spirit.
God’s presence enlivens His sacred Word. The Bible is God-breathed. The resurrected, abiding presence of God allows us to breathe in God’s word. God is alpha and omega in the process of theological inquiry. God is not just a destination, He is the motivation, the method, and the full conclusion of a worthwhile Christian theology.
Good theology leads to greater understanding of and intimacy with God. Good theology is rooted in God’s abiding presence. Consequently, our resurrected Savior is the center of our Christian theology. We believe as the apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
In light of who we are in Christ, our theological journey must make room for the abiding presence of Jesus. Christian theology makes room for the “mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). This mystery of Christ in us is both the hope of glory and the hope of our theological journey. I am confident that as we make room for God’s abiding presence, we will discover a theological foundation worthy of our ministry endeavors.
A Theology of Relationship
There is but one God (Deut. 6:4). God is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14). God is one God, yet three persons. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist together in perfect communion and community (John 14). God’s essence and nature is a relationship of love. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit. The Son loves the Spirit and the Father. The Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Perfect relationship exists in our triune God. God’s being is holy communion!
God is relationship. We must never simply reduce God to doctrines, theologies, and ideologies. God is not a doctrinal statement. God is not a denominational distinctive. God is not a creedal statement or a propositional truth. God is present and actively participating with His creation. God is more than relatable, He is relational. Throughout history God has made himself both knowable and known. God has chosen to abide with His creation.
We are God’s children and God is our only true Father (Rom. 8:16). Our sonship through Christ is more than metaphor. Our sonship is the reality of our existence in Christ (Rom. 8:14-15). We have been brought into communion with God. We have been brought into perfect community and communion with our triune God. The death and resurrection of Christ has brought us into this holy communion, this divine relationship. This was promised by Jesus who told the disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . .Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. . . And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:18-21).
God has not left us as orphans. Rather, we have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to confirm our relationship as dearly loved children of God. Not only are we confirmed as children, we are given authority to participate in our divine relationship. God is working with us and through, this side of heaven, to bring all of God’s children into loving, life fulfilling relationships. Healthy theological discovery will lead to a stronger relationship with God and a greater love for God’s children (Matt. 22:37-40).
As God is perfect relationship, our theology should mirror this reality not only in content, but in our contemplation. Theology must have value within the gathered community. A theologian who stands outside of God’s gathered community is dangerous. Christian theology is bigger than the musings of the individual or the select group. Consequently, Christian theology must work not only within the halls of academia but within the everyday practice of the local church.
God is divine relationship. We are God’s dearly loved children. We have been brought into the love of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our theology flows from this sacred reality.