Wednesday, May 28, 2008

People Live Their Theology

It was during a flurry of discontented emails when I first wrote, “People live their theology.” I was in deep debate with a childhood friend. We grew up in the same town. We went to the same schools and churches and our father’s taught at the same institution of higher learning. We were college roommates. And then, as does happen, we found our friendship in crisis and we began to hotly debate it.

Now, I need no scolding on the merits of email as a reconciliation tool. Hindsight is 20/20, thank you. Besides, what I am speaking to here is how my thoughts finally dumped all the words, confusion, accusations and decisions into the phrase, “People live their theology.”

Theology. “The study of religious faith, practice and experience; the study of God and His relation to the world; a theory or system; a distinctive body of theological opinion.” (Webster)

We are both Christians, raised in Christian homes, in the same town and community. I assumed we had the same theology of reconciliation, grace and forgiveness. It was like cold water being poured over my head and shot directly into my veins to discover my error. And it was during the death of this friendship that I took into me deeply the reality that people say many things regarding what they believe about God and the world, but in the end, people live what they really believe.

I recently finished my first unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). It’s like being a medical intern only I was a pastor intern at a local hospital. As part of the education process we write verbatims, or case studies. We have lectures and class time and some written work. We also have a final evaluation. My final evaluation came back to me this week where my pastoral skills were discussed and dissected. It was encouraging to read what I already had come to know. That I am good at being a hospital chaplain, that I have an easy authority and effective rapport with patients and families. One observation from my supervisor around theory and practice was “Shayne seems to be working from instinct, rather than intent.” I paused when I read this. I read it again. And I smiled.

I grew up in a home of theologians. I have a Master of Arts in theology. I’ve put in my time in stuffy classrooms (with mostly men) and kept up with the allow-me-demonstrate-how-much-more-I-know-than-you game. I have written the 50+ pages on Holiness in the book of Leviticus and discussed German theologians adnauseam. I have debated, written, edited, taken notes, and participated in theological reflection until I couldn’t take it anymore.

I smiled reading my evaluation because if only my supervisor knew my pastoral intent is so integrated with my instinct it goes unnoticed. I know what I believe about faith, practice, experience, God and how He works in the world. Maybe I’m over needing to justify why I do what I do. Maybe I’m still burned from putting it out there and it getting rejected. What I do know is, like everyone else, I’m simply living my theology.


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  2. Hey, Shayne. Thanks for the link to your blog via FB. I really enjoyed reading some of your posts. I particularly loved the integration of intent and instinct, beautifully stated.

  3. Hello,
    “Spirit of the Place” is definitely a great read.
    It’s considered Mr. Shem’s most ambitious work.
    Anyone interested should visit for more information.

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