I find myself in Sydney, Australia, a long way from home, but only a few hours removed from the theological goings-on of Western Europe. These days there is no such thing as isolation; I knew this before, but am discovering it in new ways. We live in a global village theologically, as in almost every other way. The death of Reinhold Niebuhr was known here in Australia as soon as it would have been in Amsterdam. The same theological problems fill the pages of the journals here that keep us reading there.
We live in a single theological world, and that is something to be glad about. To be a theologian is no longer the interesting hobby of a few scholars neatly tucked away in a corner of a university, on a side road away from the freeways of life. Theology has to be on the mainroads of life or it has lost its directions.
Theologies are measured these days by a standard of relevance; the basic question asked about a theology is whether it is relevant, significant for the fundamental questions of human existence in this time. A lot of theological work that, yesterday, we assumed was vitally important and true may today be pushed aside. The historical dimensions of theology get short shrift from this disposition; to those who find only what fits directly into today’s situation important, church history and the history of dogma are studies of theological relics.
But this trend is not a pure blessing; it often carries theological poverty in its heart. Examples are not hard to find. Theological stars, like Hollywood discoveries, rise and fall in the Church’s firmament, and after their fall it turns out that the stars hadn’t shed much light after all. But in this atmosphere, even modest warnings against theological confusion and stupidity, ...1
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