By Larry Duggins
Thoughts on Our Theological Task #10
Although we recognize that God’s revelation and our experiences of God’s grace continually surpass the scope of human language and reason, we also believe that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason. By reason we read and interpret Scripture. By reason we determine whether our Christian witness is clear. By reason we ask questions of faith and seek to understand God’s action and will. By reason we organize the understandings that compose our witness and render them internally coherent. By reason we test the congruence of our witness to the biblical testimony and to the traditions that mediate that testimony to us. By reason we relate our witness to the full range of human knowledge, experience, and service. Since all truth is from God, efforts to discern the connections between revelation and reason, faith and science, grace and nature, are useful endeavors in developing credible and communicable doctrine. We seek nothing less than a total view of reality that is decisively informed by the promises and imperatives of the Christian gospel, though we know well that such an attempt will always be marred by the limits and distortions characteristic of human knowledge. Nevertheless, by our quest for reasoned understandings of Christian faith we seek to grasp, express, and live out the gospel in a way that will commend itself to thoughtful persons who are seeking to know and follow God’s ways. In theological reflection, the resources of tradition, experience, and reason are integral to our study of Scripture without displacing Scripture’s primacy for faith and practice. These four sources—each making distinctive contributions, yet all finally working together—guide our quest as United Methodists for a vital and appropriate Christian witness."
― from "The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2016"
God gave us brains, and I am convinced that God intends for us to use them. From one perspective, humanity was blessed with reason to be able to carry God’s task of creation forward. Just as God calls us to be God’s hands and feet in service to others, God calls us to use our reason to co-create solutions and blessings for all those around us. We are more than simply caretakers—we are agents of God’s creative mercy and grace.
We are charged to use our minds to question our interpretations and our motives to refine our understanding of scripture and our theological stance. In the midst of God’s good creation, we see God at work—we see people in pain—we see springtime—and we are challenged to reconcile all of those things in our minds through the light of scripture. When we discern a conundrum, a point where things just don’t fit together, we are charged with using our reason together and individually to flex our theological understanding to find a better understanding. We cannot simply read without comprehension and challenge.
Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason engage with all that we are as people—we are called to use our individual and collective minds, bodies, and spirits to engage with God through scripture.