|Source: World Network of Religious Futurists|
Dr. Richard Kirby
The Theologies of Tomorrow
By Rev. Richard S. Kirby, Ph.D., Sept 15, 1999
© 1998-2008 by World Network of Religious Futurists.
This address was originally presented at the Ninth General Assembly of the World Future Society , Washington D.C.: July 30, 1999.
You have brought a blessing on yourselves by being here, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for your faith and your faithfulness and for encouraging me to remember a classic philosophical phrase -- "there is only one tragedy in life -- not to be a saint". And I would like you to pick up the checklist sheet that you have and add to it the word "Saints" at the bottom, or the top or wherever and put a checkbox against it. We are going to be talking some about saints.
I am here to talk to you about the Theologies of Tomorrow. This is a very exact phrase. The emcee honored me by saying my Ph.D. was in Philosophy of Science and Technology tending towards Theology but it is really the other way around. My Ph.D. work was in Christian Doctrine and History -- that is Theology with an emphasis on the idea of Theology through Science.
I am extremely interested in what works, what is successful; that is one reason I teach Business as well as Management Ethics. I am kind of curious -- you know, I like to see what makes things tick. I like to collect facts: like, I know what temperature it is, because I have a thermometer here -- it is 70 degrees.
That instinct for collecting facts and classifying them is a very important part of the religious sensibilities of the 21st century.
The kind of work I did in my doctoral dissertation was questioning whether there was another alternative to the ideas of science without religion or religion without science or, in fact, dialogue. Theology has much in common with the great tradition which is called Spiritual Science -- it is known by that name in many spiritual traditions including Hindu, Taoist and so on. Spiritual Science leads to spiritual civilization.
There is not just a science of religions but a spiritual science -- a science of God -- that is another definition for theology.
There is a vast tradition of the thoughtful analysis of religious experience -- that is also called theology.
But I said in my lecture outlined here -- can religious practices be evaluated for their social value? There is a realization from such fields as management, socio-biology, even financial accounting that they can and they should.
Last year when I spoke on this subject I apologized to you all as a representative confession about the sins and evils wrought by theologians in the past. And they have been many. We always have to start anew.
So I, as a Professor of Theology, have to say, "yes, I really am accountable". It is not good enough to be able to say, when things go wrong, "I didn't mean that". Instead of weasel words we want words that will lead us towards the Absolute Truth, God or the transcendent, or maybe if we are Buddhists towards Nirvana, towards the Tao with Chinese philosophy, anyhow towards the higher, the highest truth.
Something great is at stake here, something that costs everything, gives everything, implies everything -- namely the Absolute -- the Supreme. I take it real seriously -- I bet my life and my career on this being a great subject worthy of a lifetime's investment.
It reminds me of a time when I was in London and watching Jack Nicklaus on TV when he won the British Open. -- his age I think was about 48. When he came to the last hole he needed to get a birdie 3 on the par 4 to win the championship. And he did something that I have never seen him do before or since -- he took his sweater off. Just like this [speaker takes jacket off], it represented absolute commitment.
In the theologies of tomorrow we lead from the front.
Theology is about symbolism, and so is ministry. I have taken my coat off because it is an acted parable. It is to say "this is not yesterday's subject -- it is tomorrow's subject".
I once met an author in Vermont and we said, as men do, [sometimes ladies too these days] -- So what do you do for a living? Theology, I said. He said "theology? Now that all finished with the New Testament, right?" That is an understandable viewpoint. So it makes you wonder why people still study it. Well, we are going to look at some of the reasons why.
There is a great truth I want you to understand, so but I will give you another symbolism here -- I will roll up a sleeve. This means that, in theology, we have got to work.
We work first of all on ourselves. We work to eliminate those pieces of grit in our minds that hinder our perception of absolute truth.
We go to work -- and this is the idiom of karma yoga in Hinduism -- to work for the welfare of the world. The word karma is not to be confused with the word Kama, that is mispronounced as being identical. The word Kama means passion as we see in the Kama Sutra.
Karma-- the word means 'action' in the sense, I believe, of 'deed.' Karma yoga is a type of yoga like Bhakti Yoga, Gnana Yoga, Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga. The words Yoga and religion are cousins: religion means binding, Yoga means the yoking-- the one is Latin, implying binding, and the other Sanskrit meaning yoking. Same thing. They both have the hypothesis that there is a higher reality to which we can be yoked, or bound by effort. That is why I rolled up my sleeves.
Another thing here about the grammar of theology, [and these are all really preliminary remarks], the grammar of theology is a very strange one--it is like a series of dominoes: knock one and they all fall down. In theology all doctrines about God lead to the idea of community. God, is the Higher Reality Whom we know through our religious practices and traditions, which is to say community. So when you create a theological statement it is actually a statement about community. But not about dormant community -- it is about active community, it is about potent community.
So when we talk about theology we are talking about the grammar of action. As I say to my students, I don't see any book in the New Testament called "The Thoughts Of The Apostles", not "The Wishes Of The Apostles" or the desires. No, what I read about is acts: Acts of the Apostles. So I am here to talk to you today about the grammar of action.
What kind of action? Well, we could say it would be the action of contemplation for instance and that is certainly a part of it. But the kind I prefer is the accountable, social action. The religions of Judaism and Christianity share allegiance to a text in the prophet Amos: Thus says the LORD: --"excuse me, I am not interested in your liturgies", "I am not interested in your burnt offerings", "I won't listen to your hymns". "Instead, I want to see justice run like a river;" "I want to see righteousness." God calls for religious piety to express itself in love.
That word justice translates into social health, healing. It means that the architects of social healing are people with a religious consciousness and this is why so many schools are founded by religionists.
So, we are looking at what the trajectory of the evolution of theology may hold for the future. But we are not inquiring idly into that. Theology is not merely speculative analyses of doctrines -- it is more like a burning desire to see the disorder and the entrenched ills of the world reversed by our cooperation with the divine powers that we hear about through all the world's religions.
And many theologians include Buddhism and atheism in this as kind of allies. Buddhism is atheistic but it is not a-transcendental. It implies a divine order or at least a divine, in the Sanskrit sense of the word, self-shining. It doesn't imply a deity but it does imply a nirvanic experience and a higher self and a higher reality.
One of the basic things we have to teach our theology students is that theology is a tradition of change. That we are not here as embalmers, morticians, taxidermists or historians. What we are here as is creators, we share in the Spirit's life: the Spirit that brooded over the waters. The Spirit created, out of chaos, beautiful order. The Spirit created an order of creation in which truth and beauty, [says John Keats the poet], are one. The Spirit created an order of creation in which truth, beauty and health are one: an order in which goodness expresses itself and is only known as truth, beauty and health.
With new spiritualities competing with one another all the time with classic theologies, we need some principles to evaluate and to guide the just and proper evolution of effective, noble, honorable, potent theologies of the future. Now before I go any further, there is one point I want to make very clear. A theology is not a kind of contemplative abstraction. The word theology has a certain kinship with the word theory and both of them are to be understood as the DNA of civic action. There is nothing as effective as a good theory. There is a great saying--"everything begins in metaphysics and ends in politics". Sometimes I teach that as, "everything begins in mysticism and ends in money". That is pretty close.
I used to think that this was a derogatory phrase. But I have come to realize actually that it is a profoundly spiritual one. What it implies is that when you say, "everything begins in metaphysics and ends in politics," it means just what God does, if I may make that statement. That everything begins in heaven and ends on earth before it returns that way. Thomas Merton [1915-1968], the contemplative monk, once produced a photograph of himself with a certain artifact and said, "this is the only known picture of God". You know what it was--it was a giant fishhook. God rescues.
In theology, we deal with the knowledge that we have of three great areas of subject matter. These are called the order of creation, the order of redemption and the order of sanctification. These can be seen to have practical application: If you work in an office you know there are three things going on at any given moment. Things are being started, fixed or finished. That's what these things mean.
But the project the mission, of religions is a just world order--which is heaven on earth, on earth as in heaven. It means the healing of the world. So -- the healing of the world -- this is our subject, one step at a time.
But we need to develop some fluency in the language of theology. What is a theology anyway?
So when we think of theology, [and this is one of the key things I have to say today], when we think of a phrase like a theology of ... let's say I said, "what is a theology of lunch?" How can we assign meaning to such a phrase? It seems a strange idea. Let's translate that and say what is the theory of lunch? Well, that sounds a little bit easier to understand. Supposing I said what is the principle of lunch? Okay, that gets a little bit nearer, I can understand that. Say, what is a plan for lunch? Yes, I can understand that. That plan comes from the principle, which comes from the theory, which comes from the set of values behind it. And what it generates is, guess what, a theology of lunch generates a good lunch. Because of the inner vector of these three orders I mention we can entertain the idea of a good lunch as one that makes us good. I didn't have dessert as I didn't want to fall asleep talking to you -- so it was a good lunch.
We are looking always to move in theology from good to better to best, to the ideal, to the transcendental, to the empowerment of ourselves as spiritual beings.
But we have a right to ask from our theologians for accountability so I am going to give you some principles by which to judge things. At the end of the whole journey there will be a set of applied areas which you see in your checklist. I am going to invite you to check them off you interest whether or not you give us any information about yourself. I warmly invite you to use this as an opportunity to find out more about yourself and see which of these many areas of social life interests you.
But first let me go through my lecture outline and tell you some principles about the theology that I am looking for that is truly accountable. Number two on my checklist says "available". Now what I mean by that is this theology that is available is not elitist, it is not an aristocratic creed. It is not something that is used to exclude people it is used to include people.
In fact, so much is it used to include people that if theology is a grammar, it is a grammar of searching. As in I will seek out the hungry and the homeless and the lost and the clothless and the imprisoned and the unjustly abused and I will give everything I have to help them to have a better life. That is the kind of theology I want and I want people to be able to get at it. To find it. I'm not here to hoard my knowledge!
And secondly, theology must be loving. A theology that is not loving, well, as we say in England that would a bit like Shakespeare's play Hamlet without the prince. An unloving theology is not a theology at all because Ho Theos, which is a Greek word for God, is revealed to us as love. One writer said, "God is only love", just that: nothing but love. That insight is called revelation and to study such things is a part of theology as a discipline.
And of course Moshe and I and many of our colleagues are here to demonstrate point number four: that our theology today has to be interfaith.
We live in a world of multiple, simultaneous, cultural communications and we cannot simply take our stand here and say, "thus saith the Lord;" because the other person says the same thing. It is like in the world wars, you know, all the antagonists are saying, "well God is on our side." That led Hegel to say sarcastically that God is on the side of the biggest army.
But for the future our theology has to be scientific and experimental and experiential (number 6). We cannot have more second-hand theologies. One writer, Harry Williams, had a nervous breakdown and became a monk--there is no connection there. But in a series of books called "True Resurrection", "True Faith" and so on in which he talked about the necessity of emotional honesty [he is a preacher and theologian], he said "I will not preach that which I have not felt". This means to say that theology must be authentic, it must be an expression of who we are -- authenticity.
But to be modern and not to be merely modish, or to be historical and not merely anachronistic or archaic, we must be scientific.
But we don't want any science--just the best. But we do want that multiplication of mind power that comes through the use of science.
So our doctrines should be testable, accountable, formulatable.
Well, people say that you can't have such things as scientific doctrine in religious life; but I can give you one example right now: and that is that your church attendance or your synagogue attendance would go down if the minister spoke in a language which you couldn't understand. You might say that is not scientific. But it is, it is called a testable hypothesis. I have a lot of other such things, such theological hypotheses to publish about the churches and congregations of tomorrow.
And the church architecture of tomorrow! How many times do we see that the pews, nailed down as they are, simply crystallize alienation rather than promoting community--that is just a very small example concerning an issue for the churches of tomorrow [bearers of the theologies of tomorrow.]
Similarly, our theologies have to be international for the reasons I mentioned above, and accountable as I have spoken about.
Similarly, our theologies have to be effective.
Our theologies have to be whole-brain, not just intellectual. That means they must be ideally artistic as well as scientific.
Our theologies have to be prophetic--yes that is a part of sacred life. There are three dimensions to the sacred life--the prophetic, the priestly [which has to do with sacraments and liturgies] and the pastoral, which has to do with the caring and helping--the work of the minister. A religious practice must be prophetic, that is to say not something that foretells [forecasts], but something that forthtells, displays or reveals or announces something divinely, supremely, ultimately important: God's probable Will, the desire of the Higher Being, the Supreme Being, to make justice on earth. Something that lacks that, does not have the whole of what religion has to offer.
But we are looking here for works of art too. Not just doctrines. I have here a beautiful wizard [holds up statuette] to symbolize this and to change the consciousness here just for a moment. The wizard expresses the idea that we need right-brain principles of theological education. Had we had more time here I could present a lot of exercises to open up our spiritual consciousness some. For the moment let it suffice it to say that we all have a "wizard" or "Elven" consciousness -- if we allow ourselves to access it.
A point here is that I am starting, or I should say WNRF is starting, a course on mysticism based on one of my books "The Mission of Mysticism" as a textbook. Our four-quarter academic year has started but we would like to hear from people who would like to study mysticism seriously, as a serious subject.
I put here number 13 with an exclamation point -- the idea being that theology must be true. True! Our subject is what is really true! You see we are not looking at something that is half-true. The whole point about theology dealing with the absolute is that we don't deal with half-truths. We are not here to be political -- I mean that's no disrespect of course, its just that there are one or two politicians who tell half-truths, you know.
Collegial--we have to work together. Wired--in an Internet age we need electronic theologies so that people can communicate and achieve collective intelligence. You know, stay with the times. Reach the markets that are there and, number 17, market it -- we theologians have to be able to reach out to the world. The co-author of mine, Parker Rossman, with whom I wrote a book "Christians and the World of Computers" about ten years ago, wrote a celebrated article "Theology And Collective Intelligence In The Future." In it, he said, "Wouldn't it be nice if the theologians in the middle ages could have talked to each other on a face-to-face basis?" So Wired and Marketing helps that goal to be reached.
But our theology is a sacred subject (number 18). It's worshipful, it must be penitent and celebratory. That is why I say to you penitent means I apologize to you for all the wrongs theologians do. We are trying to mend our ways.
We must be urgent and patient. Futurist--we are that here at this assembly. Heavenly and Healing go together (numbers 21 and 22). Prayerful and Astronomical -- well, in a space age there is a NASA program going on I believe. Has it happened? NASA's mission to the stars -- it is in the program. Well, I am sorry I missed it--I was going to volunteer to be a chaplain to that program. In 1984 I was commissioned by the Episcopal Church to write the first short story about a lunar chaplain. Mine was a lady -- I was an early feminist -- her name was Joanne.
Astronomy needs theology! I have long figured that I would like to be a NASA chaplain; and theology needs Astronomy! Theology needs the hypercosmical reality of the stars for its own enlargement and balance.
We are learning what it means to be astronomical in our theology -- and human, of course. Because it is very easy to escape to the stars, that would be an example of what the existentialist would call false consciousness. We need to have earth, air, fire and water equally well balanced.
Creative, Entrepreneurial and Innovative (numbers 26-28) are things that I teach at the University of Washington, and I see no reason why religionists cannot be entrepreneurs in their theology. St. Anselm, a thousand years ago, was very, very philosophically entrepreneurial when he created the ontological argument for the existence of God: that is, God is "that being then who no greater can be conceived."
In my view that argument is still valid, despite the efforts of Immanuel Kant and Bertrand Russell and others to demolish it by saying that existence is not a predicate. But if you think about created the ontological argument and study it, you will find it is pretty powerful. It becomes, actually, a template for a lot of thinking about ethics. The ontological argument -- I commend it to you.
So, our theologies that need to be applied, and I will come back to that.
And of course our theologies need to be religious! Sometimes I say, when I am in an assembly of clergy or monks, I begin a sentence by saying "you know chaps, I hope you won't think this is too religious, but I would like to talk about God". And often they will look at me like, "that is not very fashionable, that is in bad taste".
Well I am going to have to take that risk, I guess, for I believe that theism is worth betting a life on. So that means I want a religious theology not just a fashionable one. I want the best one, mind you--it has got to be not just religious, but also spiritual and we hope it will be inspired.
I have been giving a series of lectures on Civic Inspiration and Social Inspiration and Gardens of Inspiration, because I take real seriously the idea that inspiration is possible. The word inspiration contains a word that symbolizes the Divine and the Supreme: namely the Spirit. The very word inspiration signifies a great truth. Namely, that we can receive power to do good, to create, to find the Supernal Beauty and to make it the principle of life and a social planning.
Yes, I really mean that. I mean it so much in fact that I am going to Slidell, Louisiana October 23rd where I will be giving eighteen civic lectures on the Good City--the City of Tomorrow, the Ideal City, the Beautiful City, the City of God, the Healthy City. And, in fact, I am going to be lecturing on the ideally Profitable City, the Prosperous City because theology is the most profitable of enterprises and therefore the most successful.
You know, when I think of books on how to win, how to be a winner (numbers 34 and 35) I think that the Saints are the true champions. I don't just mean the Catholic Saints; and I am not a Catholic myself, as it happens. But I like Catholic Saints, I like Muslim Saints too and Hindu Saints, Buddhist Saints, I go for them all. You know why? Because they are real good friends. I just love those guys and girls. I like them so much, in fact, that when I was reflecting on the Littleton, Colorado debacle, I sent in a lecture shortly after that. One of the problems of these kids, these people, killing each other is that they have plenty of negative role models like Rambo and Captain Nemo. I don't see these board games and things [Dungeons and Dragons] but there are plenty of anti-heroes.
But these kids are looking in vain for something that isn't there. St. Thomas Aquinas says, "if we don't find the true divinity to imitate we'll go to the devil". And that is a frightful truth.
But it is real and I did my doctoral dissertation partly on evil, also known as cosmic disorder, because I take that real seriously too. You know why? Because I see an awful lot of hungry, starving, sick, ruined people in their ruined lives and I don't like that. I don't see that God likes it either.
We have got some options -- choosing a life well lived is what I started with. The Saint's life is worth aiming at, worth imitating. They give us lots of ways to do it. November 1st in Anglo- Catholicism and in other traditions is known as All Saints Day just as October 31st is that goblins day -- Halloween -- pumpkins and stuff like that, kind of demonic. But All Hallows Eve, Halloween, October 31st, is a preparation for the Hallows, the haloes, the Saints, that is what it means--Halloween means the evening with which we prepare ourselves to be in the company of all Saints. And I am calling for people to sign a petition, I would like a hundred clergy and maybe a thousand other people to start a movement to get businesses involved in All Saints Day the same as they do in Halloween. I have asked people to create menus to celebrate certain Saints, for instance the Pillar Saint--St. Simeon Stylites would have shish-kebab as his meal. And you can think up your own. I want clothes named for Saints; I want animals named for Saints. I want food for Saints. Why? Because I take real seriously the need to give a spiritual education to young people. Saints, mystics, Saints. Nice sequence! Thomas Merton wrote a book called "Mystics and Zen Masters". I have given a series of lectures called "Mystic, Sages and Saints."
What I do is I start people off with a card, I say at the beginning of the lecture "write down which you want to be -- a mystic, a sage or a Saint." Then I give my lecture. At the beginning, most people want to be a mystic or a sage -- at the end they want to be a Saint and you know why, because the mystics have the higher sight -- the word mysticism means basically opening of eyes to see hidden things. The sages have the higher wisdom but the Saints have the higher action. I am asking you to think real seriously about joining us to have a November 1, 1999, November 1, 2000, November 1, 2001 All Saints Day celebration in your community. I think it really merits very, very serious consideration and, by the way, if any of you find anything more important than God, let me know okay. If not, then study the Saints.
There is an old English hymn that speaks about it. A woman wrote it for her children to explain saints to them: "I sing a song of the Saints of God". She says, "you can meet them at sea or in lanes or at tea -- for the Saints of God are people just like you and me. And I mean to be one too." If I don't, it's tragic isn't it? It means that I have wasted my life. So Theology is a very serious subject, but it has to be seriously innovative too.
So to my conclusion. We announce here today the formation of a new WNRF Academy. We will be having courses in mysticism and theology; and over there [points] we have an author, Dick Spady, who is very modestly standing in the background. We will use Dicks textbooks on The Civilization of Tomorrow for courses on Spiritual Civilization Building.
Of course, our Academy is the best! I wouldn't do it if I thought it wasn't -- because that would be unethical. This, by the way, what I am about to say is the logic in the ontological argument I mentioned: every class I teach is the best. Why would I do something, you know, only as well as yesterday? I can do better today. I hope I never do anything less than the best in all I do. I want the best school for the best people for the best purposes for the best values.
And we need applied theology, not just pure theology, coming back to my number 30.
A theology of education is an example of that applied theology. But a theology of education simply isn't a set of abstract principles; it is a way of life that points us to the highest values for the most effective education. I don't mean the most effective religious education like indoctrination. I mean the most effective education, period.
My theology has inspired me to launch a program called EITP -- educational innovation in theory and practice. I'm looking at schools of excellence and I told my students the following formula [definition], which is derived from these principles. An organization, this is a definition, is the activation of all the energies and talents of all the members of all the occasions. And I mean all of the occasions! I mean it in the calculus sense of the infinitesimal. In other words there is no moment when a person in an organization be excused from giving their best, their highest to the life of the organization.
But the world is our organization, the global commons, civics, and the human international community.
So, one way I would symbolize the theologies of tomorrow is as a garden. Recently I gave a lecture on the Gardens of Tomorrow as places of hope, healing and peacemaking. I had my students draw diagrams of them. I start them off by asking them about what the Garden of War is -- they give me a Venus Flytrap and a scorpion and this kind of thing. Then I go for the real issue by saying, "now let's build a Garden of Peace" -- this is an applied horticulture if you like. It tells us our theology must be so urgent, our compassion must be so urgent that we leave nothing behind.
The Prophet Joel, shared by Jews and Christians, says, "when the great locust famine comes, the times are so desperate that I can almost feel my own hair standing on end. Then the bride must leave the bridal chamber, the priest must leave the holy of Holies, the whole world rallies to the great desperate moot".
Now this is called existential living -- I'm standing on tiptoe to symbolize this, this is what it means to give our utmost. But if we say the existentialist philosophers, if we can do that on one occasion why not always? Why hold back? Are we standing toe-to-toe with life? This is the existential translation of the idea of sanctity today. Urgent, effective, compassion is our language of action. So you will see on my checklist some of the things that we are doing -- working with children's hospitals, linking up with children's hospitals from Russia to America for instance. Working with senior citizens: a new program, the Golden Phoenix, offers creativity training for senior citizens.
A Youth Futurists Institute is another entity that we are working on. We are working on a number of age levels because our theology is the care of people from birth through death--and beyond. Our theology cares for the born, the unborn, the young, not-so-young, the not-so-old, the old, the old, the very old and the late. There is no branch of society that is excused or exempt from this urgent compassion. This implies a harmony of all the world's religions at this time, to build a just world order.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian who died a martyr in an attempt to assassinate Hitler said that we must not settle for cheap grace. That is the idea of being spoon-fed by God without giving in return. What are we to give in return? Not much--just our lives, our very selves. This is called consecration, and it contains the word sacred. It means we are destined to give ourselves back to God and to give our life in divine service, which means human service. This is the grammar of theology that shows that the one implies the other. The most divine people are the most human--Saint Irenaeus said, "the glory of God is a well-formed human being".
The people we most admire, the people who are seen by visionaries and artists to be the guys and gals with halos -- they are to be found in the slums of Calcutta and Appalachia, many other places. But the Saints are not just bringing good news for the poor but also for the rich. So we have a theology of finance, I work in financial ethics, I've lectured on financial innovation, the pursuit of excellence in financial innovation -- I lectured on that in Germany and Finland and London and America. Because our economics can also be redeemed and empowered. For a good theology of wealth, a good theory of wealth is a good set of principles -- which is to say it's like drilling for gold.
Drilling! Spiritual practices include meditation and a great symbol for meditation is the action of a diamond drill. The image of a drill is used again and again by teachers of meditation. The ancient philosophers said, "man seeks God and seeking, finds". The Hindus say, "the yearning for the Divine is a case of desire rewarded by success".
We are not fundamentally separate from divine life -- says the Eastern consciousness. Ex Orientis Lux: 'out of the East comes light.' There is a fundamental harmony between the human soul, the Atman and the Divine Being -- Brahman. The word Brahman is said to mean partly, the Grower, or The Evolutioner, part of a very complex Hindu theology.
If this is all true, are we to settle therefore for what I call the New Age Theology, which is a sort of everything is okay and it's all rosy -- you know, "it's cool man"? No, I don't think so; because that leaves unexplained the problem of evil and I don't regard the problem of evil as just an illusion. I don't know how many of you will be prepared to say to your sick relatives, "stay cool, it is just an illusion". No, we are human because we care when people suffer and it is our nature to go -- with God's help -- to succor the needy.
I once told my students there is a very simple way to understand what a pastoral ministry was. I turned on an old episode of the Lone Ranger. You see the Lone Ranger on his horse Silver, with Tonto his faithful sidekick in there standing on one side of a mountain. They hear a set of cries, pistol shots. And the Lone Ranger says to Tonto "they are in trouble---hi-yo Silver". I consider that to be one of the best theological statements I have ever heard--it's "let's go"; it's not "let's think", it's "let's go!" It's that feeling term I want to communicate as part of what real theological education is about.
The English word "person", which meant priest, is actually a synonym of the word person. It was thought, in Mediaeval England, that the priest was supposed to be the representative human being, not in the sense of being a mediator but one who was supposed to live in such a way as to inspire people to seek the source of a well-lived life. So what we want is a well-lived life in a well-run world. For that we have to reverse disorder and the evil of the world and that costs everything--and gives everything.
So, in the checklist I have given you there is a range of the areas that our whole circle of religious futurists is working in. We have our Academy moving into place, we have a number of programs. Mostly, though, I am just here to say that at the end of the day all theological statements come down to one thing. Invitations. What they amount to is to say "you know something, I want to share something real important I have found, I am just so excited about it".
Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism says that is just what it is -- the mystics, the God-intoxicated people, come rushing back as if some strange encounter and almost a jabbering of what they have seen. Finally, they make themselves understood and it becomes theology. The routinization of charisma. And she says in her book Mysticism--"in these people, these saints, these mystics, these God-intoxicated people, we see our lovely forerunners, our futurists, our religious futurists, our heralds. And in them and the light and the luminosity of their lives and their being, we see far off the consummation of the human race. This is the meaning of the Theologies of Tomorrow.
For the Theologies of Tomorrow are called, I suggest, not to be exercises in forecasting, not to be speculative; but they are called--we are called--to be builders of a new theology with the evolving language of world love.
We are called to be builders of a new theology of tomorrow, certainly. This theology, these theologies [for they will be a plurality, a multiplicity, a variety] of the future is a theology of hope, of that too we can be sure. And the future we glimpse, the subject of our theology, is one which is coming to us as we are reaching out to it.
We are indeed visionaries, not merely intellectuals: we are heralds of a glorious future for society: we announce the possibility of a world, a civilization which in small steps and giant bounds gets better, better and better -- all by Gods grace--until, in the biblical imagery of hymn-writers, the waters of the Spirit inundate the human world.
Thank you very much for your attention.
DrRSKirby@wnrf.org Copyright 1999 by Richard Kirby.
Dr. Richard Kirby, International Chairperson of the World Network of Religious Futurists, welcomes your collaboration in the creation of the theologies of tomorrrow. Your counsel and comments are invited in our message board.
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