A few weeks back I mentioned a new read titled, “Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life” by Ed Cyzewski. For readers of this blog and any student of scripture I’d recommend you picking up this book.
Today the Coffeehouse Theology Blog Tour makes a stop at ABCpastor. What a privilege!
Theology is one of those words that seem to just belong to the professionals and the spiritual elite, not for the average person in the pews. The thought of doing theology could simply be intimidating to the average church-goer. Perhaps it’s the suffix –logy (the study of) that makes it seem like something you go to school for and major in or maybe it’s just the idea of studying something that makes people want to stand at a distance from. Oh well. Coffeehouse Theology as the title suggests helps us see that theology is really for everyone, anyone and is something we can and should do especially if we are seekers of God. Everyone has an opinion of God and live accordingly to what they know or believe. Instead of dialogue we’ve drawn lines that separate us. The question we need to ask is what has shaped our particular view of God and theology. Then moving forward what should shape it? As I was reading through this book as I read everything else I’m constantly looking for how this fits into my Asian-American context.
We must consider that we all have lenses for how we view the world and God. Arriving at this self awareness is not easy. I deeply appreciate Ed’s focus on adopting ‘Contextual Theology’ so we become aware of our unique perspectives as well as limitations due to culture. Many Christians may believe they’re not affected by it but we cannot escape culture. We’re shaped by it. I think this is where doing theology becomes dynamic connecting us with our personal history, the historic and global church as well as other spheres of life. Ed illustrates this interconnected dynamic more concretely with a contextual theology web diagram. With Ed’s permission I recreated it here to help you.
Theology requires great humility from us. For those who have long held onto their beliefs and convictions the task of theology requires their willingness to be pulled out from the comfortable warm water they have been wading in and squirm out in the wide open sea. As we discover the weight of God’s truth and glory, submit to his values and mission I believe we experience transformation. Theology is far reaching and much more influential than we may realize. It must serve the mission of God and not simply fill our heads with more knowledge or just satisfy our questions. Then we may begin to embrace those different from us, become a little less homogeneous. Perhaps less White, less Chinese, less middle class or what have you. Instead what gives way is a new humanity as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:15 to a diverse church comprised of traditional Jews and Gentiles. Consider also what we find throughout Acts on the tensions between these two groups and the Gospel renewal we see in and through the life journey of Paul the Apostle.
In considering the culture of the Chinese Church: Ken Fong, Sr. Pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in LA once told a story that conveys what we often experience in the Chinese Church as he had confronted his parents in their expression (maybe even wishes) of their family as one big happy Chinese family. The thing is, Ken Fong is third-generation Chinese-American and he barely speaks any Chinese if any at all. Additionally the changing racial dynamics of his family necessitates that they can no longer call themselves a “Chinese” family. Likewise, at what point do you stop calling yourself a Chinese church when those who come are increasingly less Chinese in appearance and understanding? I understand the pride and sense of heritage but is culture shaping us more than our theology then?
Ed recounts a story of an encounter he had with an Asian seminary student discussing the difference in how they each relate to their pastors/elders. In the Asian church we just don’t spout off to our pastors/elders. He writes,
“…neither culture has a corner on respect for elders, but each culture will inevitably read the Bible through a different cultural lens. And both cultures present opportunities for sin. In extreme cases, the Asian approach could be used to ignore younger generations, while the American approach could be disrespectful to elders and leaders. This raises an important point about culture. Every culture has opportunities and challenges.” – Thanks Ed!
We need other voices to confront our blindspots. Ed makes a good point that we tend to think that our American theology is “theology” while we give every other form of theology a qualifier, such as “Latino theology” or “Asian theology”. Again we need to step outside of ourselves and swim out into unfamiliar waters. Ed consistently helps the reader consider other voices in the Global Church be it through his own experience or through some other source. This is such a critical component in theology and it will be ongoing as culture changes. What I find most fascinating about this is that theology becomes a communal activity. Other voices may help deepen our love for God and help us better navigate through our faith journey. Amen to that. BTW Charles Lee has a great post (Changing My Religion) about processing our faith journey. I love the discussion that is happening there.
As I mentioned before any book that contains the word “coffee” in the title should do remarkably well. It has an instant cool factor. Truthfully the cover is also pretty cool looking. There’s even napkin sketches. Praise for Coffeehouse Theology and Ed Cyzewski!