Just a Thought - Time-bound Theology
Those early Christian communities were nourished by a number of different theologies. The four Gospels are the primary example. They evolved from oral traditions, passed on from person to person, and from place to place. More than one single person composed the final versions as we have them to-day. Each time the authors (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) adapted their accounts to the needs, understanding and cultural-religious backgrounds of their listeners.
Mark's Gospel: was written for Gentile Christians in Rome. They suffered Roman persecution, but also discrimination from Judaeo-Christians, who considered themselves superior to Gentile converts. Mark portrays Jesus as the authoritative Son of God, with little reference to the Hebrew Scriptures.
Matthew's Gospel: Was written from a Judeo-Christian perspective. There Jesus is the great embodiment of all preceding Hebrew history. While Mark focused on the mostly gentile Christian community in Rome, Matthew was more focused on the Judeo-Christian community in Antioch.
Luke's Gospel: Stresses that Christianity is a way of life for gentile and Judeo-Christian believers; and that it warrants legal recognition in the Roman Empire. Luke is about healing and reconciliation: actions greatly needed in our own contemporary society.
John's Gospel: Differs from the other three (Synoptic) both in style and content. John uses a 'post-resurrection' point of view. John looks back at the Jesus events and emphasises the inability of the Apostles to understand the things that were happening at the time they occurred. The Johannine community was greatly concerned with hot issues in the church-synagogue debate and defined itself primarily in contrast to Judaism.
So a variety of theological viewpoints is basically good, as long as people are....
In conversation with each other.
Understand and acknowledge that a variety of viewpoints is legitimate.
Don't get locked into just one viewpoint.
Remember that the focus of any theology is our 'faith experience'.
Theology changes and evolves as does our understanding of Christian tradition and human self-awareness. Theology must also change so that it doesn't get locked in a static particular cultural time frame. Theology challenges contemporary culture. It does not canonize it.
I must remember that while I use European/ Celtic symbols and rituals in worship, the historical Jesus was not a pale-faced European. he was a dark coloured Palestine Jew. And, by the way, he had no problems accepting women as his disciples. What then can be the basis for sexist prejudice and hangups? Time-bound theology often tries to squeeze God into a narrow theological box. God is bigger and richer than any theology. We are made in the 'image and likeness of God'. Distorted theology says that God is made in OUR image and likeness. We need liberation theology, black theology, gay theology, feminist theology etc. to express the broad range of reality.
We need to disconnect from old theologies that support patriarchy, power, sexism and homophobia. Christianity is not about power over people. It's about empowering people to take responsibility, to love the other as oneself. Power over people is not a virtue, whether in Rome, Bunbury, Dublin, Canberra or Washington DC. History shows again and again that, in religion and in civil government, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The contemporary theological challenge calls out to all of us. You and I need to continually reflect and ask the big questions...
Who or what is God for me to-day?
How do I understand Jesus to-day?
How can I be a genuine follower of Christ to-day?
Where do I find the joy and support of a community of believers, who share my hunger for living bread?