Recently, my daughter has been coming home from school with various questions that pop up concerning what her class has been studying. We most recently had a discussion about forms of government, and she asked me what communism is.
I simplified my explanation by just saying that it’s basically where the government takes money from some people and gives it to others. She made the comment that “That sounds nice.” I responded by saying, “Yes, it’s nice when a person wants to give to others to help them out.” I asked her, though, “Do you remember what we talk about on Sundays about how people are?” She said, “We’re sinners.” I said, “Right, so how well do you think a government populated by sinful people distributes money to those who most need it.” She said, “Not very well.” I said, “Right, not very well.” Then, I closed our discussion by noting that it’s the Church’s role to help those in need and that people should give willingly, not out of compulsion.
To me, this whole exchange typifies “thinking theologically.” We are all theologians, because we all think about and talk about God; or, even if we don’t, God is thinking about and talking to us. So, to think theologically is to consider things in light of what God has revealed to us about Himself, about us, and about the world.
From His Word to us, we know that He created everything “very good,” but that humanity introduced sin into the world, and that this sin caused the world to be plagued by decay and death. We also know that Jesus Christ has come to forgive our sins and save us from eternal death and that he is returning again to perfectly restore his creation to again make it “very good.” We know that this perfection will not arrive until Christ returns, although we have it in part as the Church, since we are made the body of Christ and have received the Holy Spirit.
This God-revealed narrative, then, ought to inform our thinking. We don’t have a private religion where we go worship on Sundays and then completely forget about God or His revelation to us. Instead, we are Christians, members of the body of Christ who are in the world carrying out our vocations to tend and bless it, as well as lovingly proclaiming God’s Word of Law and Gospel.
Thus, like my discussion with my daughter, we should consider things in light of what God has revealed to us. Things like government, right to life issues, marriage issues, second amendment issues, and anything else that impacts our life in this fallen world ought to be viewed by us, the Church, in light of God’s revelation and plans in Christ. This “consideration” is “thinking theologically.”
Then, out of this type of thinking we ought to have something to say. That is, we are not here to wall ourselves off from the world, awaiting the return of Christ. Instead, we are his witnesses on earth. If the Church wants to be viewed as relevant, then we ought to actually be saying something, and this “something” needs to be informed by our theology.
(Image by Claudio Coello [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons” – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AClaudio_Coello_-_The_Triumph_of_St_Augustine_-_WGA5127.jpg”)