A Need for Creative Theology
The latest of edition of the magazine Fast Company features today’s 100 most creative business people. The magazine’s stories of these innovators has me thinking about creativity in Christian theology.
What counts as creative is at least partly subjective, of course. But I noticed common themes among those featured in Fast Company. Most creative people listed are problem solvers, obstacle overcomers, or innovators.
The magazine’s list has fascinating people. Ranked first is the general director of Al Jazeera. Number two is a designer at Apple. Interestingly, Conan O’Brien made the top ten.
There’s Nothing New Under the Sun?
All of this has me wondering what it would be like to construct a list of the 100 most creative theological thinkers today. I know of no magazine who publishes such a list. But I’m sure it would be interesting!
Of course, some Christians think theology done well is not creative at all. Good theology, from this perspective, simply retells stories and truths handed down from yesteryear. For Christians with this perspective, either the Bible or the Christian tradition offers everything of theological importance. There is nothing new under the sun.
Others think creative endeavors in theology imply that God has changed in some way. Because they think God is in all ways unchanging, creative theology is at worst heretical and at best misguided. An unchanging God requires unchanging theology.
I personally think good theology takes into account insights from yesteryear and Scripture. But I don’t think appreciating the past eliminates the possibility of new and creative theological insights. Traditional wisdom is crucial; but contemporary imagination plays an important role in Christian theology.
Something New Under the Sun
We need creative theology today as much or more than ever. In fact, I think the most important creative advances today may actually be occurring in theology not business!
The common Christian conviction that we can never fully understand God plays a role in explaining why creative theology is important today. Unless we think a person or group in the past comprehended God entirely, there is always room to “grow in the knowledge of the love of Christ.”
In addition, Christians face a host of unanswered or poorly answered questions. Take the problem of evil, for instance. Most Christians have either no answer or a poor answer to why an almighty and all-loving God fails to prevent genuine evil. There’s plenty of need for creative theological thinking on that issue.
Theology is necessarily tied to our views of the world, including science. Our views of the human person, initial and ongoing creation, and social structures are always influenced by research and theories in the sciences. While theology need not be a slave to changing scientific ideas, creative theology can help Christians reconcile time-honored truths with contemporary scientific research. There’s work to be done here too.
Or take the questions of religious pluralism. While people of differing faiths have always interacted to some degree, many Christians today interact with nonChristians more often and more deeply. We need creative theological answers questions this new situation raise.
New Research Programs in Theology
Fast Company inspires me to consider the kind of creative theology we need most today. In some of my recent work, I’ve attempted to offer satisfying answers to some questions. But I’m thinking now about what I should do next.
In a changing world with changing people and changing ideas, some things do stay the same. But as long as we know in part, there will be plenty of room for creative theological endeavor.