questions of life

[A passage from a soon-to-be-released book appealing for a newly invigorated role for theology in helping us live a good life:]

The most theological thing I have ever done was to plant a church—a community in which Bible scholars, ethicists, philosophers, and, yes, a stray “theologian” proper, have done theology as we have lived theologically. A community in which graphic designers, poets, musicians, sociologists, and even lawyers and medical doctors have become “accidental theologians.” It began almost imperceptibly and quite by accident. We should have known something theological was afoot when we found ourselves spending evenings on a back porch listening to a friend—a Christian Nietzsche scholar perched, with not a hint of ironic self-consciousness, on a stump in the backyard—call us to live lives that amounted to more than a never-ending quest for ever-greater degrees of comfort. I remember waking up at 3:30 a.m. to walk with that friend three miles across town to the train station—simply because walking was more life-giving than driving and the conversation along the way was worth the effort. Summer evenings were spent poring over Karl Barth, Søren Kierkegaard, C. S. Lewis, Kwame Bediako, Marilynne Robinson, and, yes, Nietzsche, with the visceral sense that our lives depended on the words on the pages. The questions of life were theological because theology was the question of life. Where to live—and with whom—was a theological question. We bought houses together; we shared cars. How and whether to own at all was a theological question. Rhythms of work and rest were a matter of deep theological reflection. Art and beauty were perhaps among the most theological questions of all. Theology was a question about the nature of the life we were living together.

finding God in theory or practice

Religious life, at least as it is for me, does not involve anything like a well-defined concept of God, a concept of the kind that a philosopher could live with. What is fundamental is the experience of God, for example in prayer or in life’s stunning moments. Prayer, when it works, yields an awe-infused sense of having made contact, or almost having done so. Having made contact that is, concerning the things that matter most… These experiences are not theory-driven. The perceptions and understandings of the religious practitioner are more like the outpourings of a poet than they are like theoretical pronouncements… Poetry, at its most profound, need not observe consistency…

– Howard Wettstein, Jewish philosopher in a NY Times interview, as quoted by Frank Schaeffer in Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace