You can find theological conclusions almost everywhere you look these days.
On popular TV shows, you find various characters saying that everything happens for a reason. That, too, is often bogus theology that fails to account for something that truly does exist in the world -- randomness and chance and coincidence.
And even in Christian churches you hear about our "immortal souls." That's an old Greek idea, not a Christian one. The Christian alternative to that is the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. In Christian theology, only God is immortal, and if we are to be granted eternal life, that will be a gift from God. It will not be because anything about us now is immortal.
Faith communities -- whether Christian or another tradition -- should be offering their adult members and friends (to say nothing of children and youth) classes that help people unpack theology. Many congregations do that, including my own. But many more aren't very vigilant about such efforts.
Bruce Epperly, the pastor who wrote this worthwhile piece, thinks teaching theology is one of the crucial things faith communities can do.
"Today," he writes, "people receive a plethora of religious information on cable television and the internet, and it is imperative that the church add its voice to media presentations on the life of Jesus, scripture, God, the Gnostic scriptures, and world religions, not to mention the superficial and often harmful theologies often presented by popular televangelists. In a time in which many assert that post-modernism privileges experience over doctrine, open-ended theological reflection has become more essential in the pulpit and the congregational classroom. Congregants need to nurture the mind as well as the spirit and heart to creatively face the challenges of our pluralistic age. They need safe places in which to explore their faith questions and challenge childhood ideas about God and humankind."
He is making some of the points that I make in my new book, due out Sept. 20, The Value of Doubt: Why Unanswered Questions, Not Unquestioned Answers, Build Faith. I'll be introducing that book at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library. For more details and to reserve a seat, click here.
Theology, after all, is the study of God. And what topic is more important than that?
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THE PROBLEMS WITH RELIGION COVERAGE
I often complain about the lack (and quality) of journalistic coverage of religion. Even when newspapers were in their prime in the U.S., they didn't devote nearly enough resources to this important area of our society. So I was intrigued by this analysis of religion coverage in Australia, a piece that offers many of the same complaints about coverage there. The author, who spent much of his career covering religion, bemoans "how much is missing from news media today, from ordinary human stories of faith to great themes." I'm guessing that part of the problem there is similar to the problem here in the U.S.: Few readers or consumers of news complain. Nowadays there are more and more online sources of religion coverage, but that's more true of national and international stories than of local stories. So as my former employer, The Kansas City Star, has cut back (to very little) on coverage of religion, at least KCPT-TV has picked up on it through its "Beyond Belief" initiative and its Flatland digital magazine. In fact, I'll now be writing a monthly column for Flatland. Stay tuned here. I'll let you know when that starts.