Theological Maps

For now we see in a mirror obscurely, but at that time face to face; now I know in part, but at that time I will fully know even as also I was fully known. –1 Corinthians 13:12

David J Bosch on our understanding of the truth as a theological map:

It is true that we see only in part, but we do see. We are committed to our understanding of revelation, yet we also maintain a critical distance to that understanding. In other words, we are in principle open to other views, an attitude which does not, however, militate against complete commitment to our own understanding of truth… Far from leading us into a morass of subjectivism and relativism, the approach I am advocating actually fosters a creative tension between my ultimate faith commitment and my own theological perception of faith. Instead of viewing my own interpretation as absolutely correct and all others by definition as wrong, I recognize that different theological interpretations, including my own, reflect different contexts, perspectives, and biases. This is not to say, however, that I regard all theological positions as equally valid or that it does not matter what people believe; rather, I shall do my utmost to share my understanding of the faith with others while granting them the right to do the same. I realize that my theological approach is a “map”, and that a map is never the actual “territory”. Although I believe that my map is the best, I accept that there are other types of maps and also that, at least in theory, one of those may be better than mine since I can only know in part (1 Cor. 13:12)… This presupposes, however, that we see fellow-Christians not as rivals or opponents but as partners, even if we may be passionately convinced that their views are in need of major corrections.

Transforming Mission, pp. 186-187

2 thoughts on “Theological Maps

  1. This is a balanced, well-articulated attitude that should keep us, as Christians, from unhealthy contention that proves fruitless and damages the oneness that our Lord prayed for.

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    • Glad you thought so too! A different theological map is not legitimate grounds for forming a separate group. Of course this leads to a discussion on what is the basis of our unity. Paul contrasts two sources of unity in Ephesians chapter four 1) the unity of the Spirit and 2) the unity of the faith and the full knowledge of the Son of God. I think this gets at the “creative tension” Bosch refers to. We are told to keep the former and arrive at the latter. While we are in this collective state of arrival it is counterproductive to the mission of the church and God’s eternal mission to divide ourselves into what some have called the “bewildering taxonomy of Christian churches.”

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