At my induction, the approach to Biblical interpretation that we might call ‘poetic theology’ was affirmed.
What I’ve since noticed, is that regarding prayer and creativity, as they were in the past, as legitimate tools of theological enquiry often gets you to the same sort of destination as more formal methods.
Theology is a quest for meaning. This is one approach, which is not in competition with rigorous formality, but sits alongside it.
Insights don’t need to be definitive to be valid. I’m not competing with, or aiming to defeat other methods.
Whilst being aware of these limitations, I’ll share here a small part of what is convincing me that Christianity needs the ‘green specs’ that folk have expected to see in my work, and maybe a bit more than was expected.
I noticed, as I have before, – but never gave it further thought-, that the ‘kingdom’ (‘basileia’) which many have preferred to call ‘reign’, in Matthew’s Gospel (alone) is mentioned a remarkable 32 (!!!) times as the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Or the reign of ‘heaven’. The way heaven is ruled…. It is perfectly normal to make the leap to assume that the ‘Kingdom of God’ (approx 70+ occurrences in the New Testament ) is identical. In practice, few preachers ever notice or register the difference. That is accepted, but for now, I’m just looking at Matthew’s preference. (Matthew also does use Kingdom of God).
The other principle which is not just my own, but observable wherever people are doing theology in the light of the Climate Crisis, could, I suppose, be described as a ‘reconcretisation of metaphor’. An overwhelming majority of the ‘images’ in Biblical language are rather more firmly grounded in the experiential than we have allowed for. If we read of Jesus suggesting ‘look at the birds’, have we actually looked at the birds? If we read his advice to look and learn from ‘all the trees’. The climate crisis is the death of abstract metaphor. Creation literally groans. Stones shout. Science, as the codification of experience, is our ‘universal translator’ of the prophetic witness of Creation. Though again, such things are not limited to the formal.
The ivory tower of the abstract theologian is exchanged for an immersion in the threatened cycles of nature.
And having noted that our use of the word ‘heaven’ tends to shunt our daily experience of the sky into a remote and abstract dimension, let’s just allow that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ can be imagined as ‘the way the sky is ruled’. Which in the case of the very well-known phenomenon of the water cycle, is cyclic. A circular economy, as it were. What else is the background to Isaiah 55:10-11, when the ‘sky/heaven’ itself becomes a major player in the cyclic purposes of God, and not as a mere catalyst, but an active agent. Science has added to the water cycle, the carbon flux. And human activity is messing them both up royally.
Having ‘Got Creation Done’, (!!!) God is Sustainer, and the Way God ‘Rules’, is by ‘recycling.’ See also the previous blog post about the recycled God that we know as the Trinity., rather than as a vertically hierarchical single-use Boss-bird-and Junior . The dance of Creation, and of God, is a circle-dance. Let that sink in. And test it out against Jesus’ many stories of the kingdom, its order and even its apparent (relative) chaos.