Notes on Vocational Theology

What is theology? How do we recove a truly biblical basis for the theological enterprise, especially in the world? The idea of clergy and laity is a negative theological dichotomy. In Scripture, the term clergy (kleros) is used of the whole people of God. “A theology of the whole people of God must encompass not only the life of God’s people gathered, the ekklesia, but he church dispersed in the world, the diaspora, in marketplace, government, professional offices, schools and homes” (page 8, The Other Six Days by R. Paul Stevens). A true ecclesiology will “encompass earhly realities and expounds the menial, the trivial, and the necessary: washing, cleaning, maintaining the fabric fo this world, play, games, art, leisure, vocation, work, ministry, mission and grappling with the principalities and powers. It must help us understand and experience sexuality, family and friendship. It must show us the place of sabbath and sleep” (page 8).

Francis of Assisi: “Humankind has as much knowledge as it has executed.” Theology must also be emotional. Indigenous people must practice theology on the go, in lived reality, in the “fresh dirt” of our worldly existence. Although these theologies run the risk of being incomplete, inadequate, and even heretical, they are the best way of doing theology. It is hermeneutics at its best.

Bottom-up theology, on-the-spur-of-the-moment theology, is the theology of the people and as such represents true discourse and study of God, for the discovery of God takes place in his creation, the world, rather than in the classroom of concrete and stone and abstract thinking created by humans as found in the university. This is not to demean the theological journey of the academy, for it is necessary to find an orderly way of creating the bounds of theology. However, this is always the secondary step.

The primary arena of ministry and theology is not the in-house service of the church, rather it is the marketplace– the place where goods, services, and information are exchanged. How can the church equip people for full-time ministry in the world? Why do we not ordain and commission “the laity” in their daily lives?

The Reformation failed in reforming ecclesiology. Instead, it was much more concerned with soteriology. The priesthood of all believers was interpreted according to its effect on individual salvation. As such, the structures of Protestatism borrowed its models from Rome and the growing world of the middle-class business. Because of this, we have never learned how to do wide-spread theological education in the congregation– true theology that is lived in the marketplace. One must conclude from the way churches do not engage the people in their daily work that the church has no interest in this and that faith is a privatised sacred system that takes place in a walled building with religious symbols.

The concept of the individual Christian is a false one. No such concept exists in Scripture. In the Bible, the smallest component of the church is the church. The ministry of the church is mutual, to one another.

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