Monday, 10 October 2016

Coffeehouse Theology: A Practical Theology that Fuses Christian Theology with Realism

There is need for Christians to understand the practical aspects of theology. Theology defines the core values of Christianity. Normally, Christians needs to live according to the tenets of Christianity. Likewise, there is need to bridge theology with common knowledge; as this would support the core tenet that Christian life must be guided by the principles of Christianity. This also applies to the professional life of a committed Christian, and thus one must do the level best to uphold Christian values in the workplace, as well as spread, foster and inculcate Christian values among co-workers.
Photo Credit: Ignatius.com
Cultural criticism is presently considered to bridge the fields of philosophy and cultural studies (Wolfreys, 2015). As a cultural critic, one is bound to analyze the unique dimensions of a particular culture that is being studied. According to my personal opinion, post-modernism is a ubiquitous cultural trend in the Occident that needs to be explored and reconciled with its spiritual foundations, and also related to modern Christianity.
In the field of cultural criticism, one encounters people who adhere to different religious persuasion and other who consider religion to be a form of sacred ideology. Most importantly, what unifies most cultural critics is there adherence to the ideals of post-modernism, and most of their criticism of cultural practices and religion are always underpinned by analyses which compare the cultural practices under study with values and metrics of post-modernism (Habermas, 2015).
Culture is also an important component which determines the degree of success of evangelism. A Christian missionary culture of the people he or she is evangelizing to, as this will enable the missionary to contextualize biblical messages, and thus be able to educate the people on how best to live Christian lives within their existing cultural milieu (De Jong, 2012). Nonetheless, the missionary must understand that biblical scriptures are non-modifiable, and thus the he or she must endeavor to ensure that the culture of the people conforms to the biblical truths and not that biblical passages must be interpreted to conform to the cultural subjectivity of the people (Rae, 2015). This underscores the need for one to always remain committed to the biblical truth even when engaging in evangelism in the workplace or among a strange people. The need for a Christian to remain committed to the Eternal Truth as revealed in the bible is underscored by the scriptural verses found in the Book of Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
This passage informs the Christian to uphold Christian values and remain steadfastly committed to Eternal Truth. For this reason, a cultural critic must ensure that he interacts shrewdly with his colleagues and companions, and also appropriately convey the eternal truth to them, especially with regards to understanding how post-modernism relates to the Eternal Truth. This is expounded extensively in the book, Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. The main thesis of the book is that Christians need to understand Christian theology so that they can be able to deal with the problems and dilemmas posed by Post-modernism, and also be able to starve off the temptation to adopt and internalize ideological elements which are inimical to the practice of Christian faith (Cyzewski, 2014).
Post-Modernism
Post-modernism arose from secular humanism, and is seen as the evolution of intellectual understanding of culture and religion (Dickens & Fontana, 2015). The four tenets of post modernisms are described hereafter in relation to how they interact with Christianity and Christian principles.
To begin with, post-modernism considers divinity as self-expression and it thus rejects the notions of ontological truths and metanarratives, and as a consequence, post-modernism has no unique worldview. Secondly, post-modernism postulates that tolerance is a virtue which must be upheld, while conviction is a vice which must be deconstructed (Dickens & Fontana, 2015). For this reason, post-modernists consider Christianity as a system which rigid convictions; and thus the goal of post-modernism as it relates to Christianity is to deconstruct the elements that build-up and strengthen Christianity (Adams, Pattison & Ward, 2013). This goal defines the third tenet of post-modernism.
The third tenet of post-modernism postulates that truth is only found in a community and not in an individual; and thus the ultimate authority must be monopolized by the community (Dickens & Fontana, 2015). This tenet evidently contradicts the Christian belief that Jesus (an individual) came to the world to spread the Eternal Truth, and thus belief in Jesus brings one closer to the divine truth. According to post-modernism, the belief in Jesus is erroneous as it leads one to ascribe authority to Jesus instead of pledging total loyalty to the community (Adams, Pattison & Ward, 2013). The prioritization of commitment to the community, by the post-modernists, is related to the fourth tenet of post-modernism. The fourth tenet postulates that change is contingent on cultural evolution and freedom of self-expression (Dickens & Fontana, 2015). Thus, according to post-modernism, there is an invisible and ethereal force which drives cultural evolution, and since culture flourishes within an organized community, then an individual must be a member of an organized community. Additionally, it also considers the freedom of self-expression to be optimally expressed within an evolving culture (Adams, Pattison & Ward, 2013).
Consequently, post-modernism considers human development to be tied to the evolution of the community, and this offers no room for personal acknowledgment of the truth, and one must acknowledge what the community accepts to be true as the unquestionable truth. This goes against the Christian principle of upholding the universal truth as revealed in the bible, and rejecting the evil and sinful ways of the community. In the Old Testament, there are numerous injunctions against idol worship and religious syncretism, and the main messages delivered by Prophet Elijah to the people of Israel concentrated on the need for them to dissociate themselves from the accepted cultural practices of idol worship and religious syncretism; and instead choose to commit themselves to the Eternal God as it states in the First Book of Kings 18:21-22 (all quotes of biblical verses in this paper are derived from the King James Bible)
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing. Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.”
These verses teach that a committed Christian must not follow the cultural injunctions of a community which endorses sin and transgressions against the laws of God. Thus, a cultural critic who works within a community of colleagues who ascribe to the principles of post-modernism must not adopt and syncretize the principles of post-modernism with Christian values, but must choose to remain committed to the Eternal Truth, and strive to evangelize to his colleagues using appropriate means and biblical passages. In other words, a committed Christian must not allow the surrounding culture to change him, but he must strive to change the surrounding culture and bring it in line with the teachings and exhortations of True Christianity.
Practical Theology
In the book, Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life , the theme of post-modernism and how it relates to modern Christianity is explored, and it recommends that a practicing Christian must strengthen his or her ideological arsenal by studying Christian theology and rhetoric, because this will enable the Christian to not only remain committed to the Eternal Truth, but also be able to evangelize prudently to the adherents of Post-modernism by shrewdly deconstructing its four core tenets, and showing them that Christianity still offers the best explanation and understanding of human life and experiences (Cyzewski, 2014). Thus, a Christian who aims to evangelize to his fellow cultural critics must first understand Christian theology, and then use this understanding (and the understanding of cultural criticism) to package the gospel in a format that would be palatable to his colleagues and fellow cultural critics.
Most importantly, the Christian must analyze post-modernism with a Christian lens and point out its defects, and then show his colleagues that these defects exist, and that they affect their perception of reality; and that they need to examine and objectively study the true messages of Christianity, and thus redeem themselves as well enlighten themselves about the true reality. This way, the committed Christian would have fulfilled the core obligation of the great commission as it is documented in Matthew 28:18-20 which states:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Conclusion
Christians need to understand the practical aspects of theology. This will enable them to live according to the tenets of Christianity. For this reason, there is need to bridge theology to common knowledge; as this would support the core tenet that Christian life must be guided by the principles of Christianity. This would also enable a committed Christian to do the level best to uphold Christian values in the workplace, as well as spread, foster and inculcate Christian values among co-workers.
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References
Adams, N., Pattison, G., & Ward, G. (Eds.). (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Theology and
            Modern European Thought. OUP Oxford.
Bible, K. J., & Various. (1996). King James Bible. Proquest LLC.
Cyzewski, E. (2014). Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life. Tyndale
            House.
Dickens, D. R., & Fontana, A. (2015). Postmodernism and Social Inquiry. Routledge.
De Jong, M. (2012). Evangelism after Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian
            Witness. European Journal of Theology21(2).
Habermas, J. (2015). The New Conservatism: Cultural Criticism and the Historian's Debate.
            John Wiley & Sons.
Rae, M. (2015). Christian Theology: The Basics. Routledge.
Wolfreys, J. (2015). Introducing Criticism in the 21st Century. Edinburgh University Press. 

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