3.00am on Saturday 17 November 2018

Ordinary Theology


What is‘Ordinary Theology'?

These two words don't seem naturally to sit together, but according to Jeff Astley, we need to release the word ‘theology' from its captivity in colleges and universities and return it to its main task and its first home, as the work of all God's people.

Jeff writes:

‘Theology' is just God-talk, talking about God. When the word was first used in the church it was applied to anyone who thought and spoke about their faith. It was only a lot later that it became an academic subject, the possession of scholars.

Jeff Astley

‘Ordinary theology' is the sort of God-talk that comes first to the lips of all Christians when they reflect about their faith. Its main auditorium is not the lecture hall, or even the church building, but at home or at work; in the pub or in the garden; on the bus, at the shopping centre or on a country walk. Unlike the more ‘extraordinary' theology of the academic world, it is ‘just ordinary' and employs no technical jargon or philosophical ideas. It is, rather, couched in story and anecdote, using everyday language (which includes metaphors - without which we could hardly talk at all) and powerful images to express our deeply felt commitments and - sometimes - our agonized concerns.

We don't have to go to college to learn how to do this. We only have to be ourselves, and to speak of what we feel and of what we know. To express in our own stumbling, inadequate way what we believe about God.

The stumbling doesn't matter. What matters is that it is what we really think. For this is our theology.

For more about the idea of ordinary theology,see resources below. Also included is Jeff's personal book, 'Christ of the Everyday'.

The theologian gets no new revelation and has no special organ for knowledge. He is debtor to what we in one sense have already - the Scriptures and the lives and thoughts of the faithful. . . . This puts theology within the grasp of conscientious tentmakers, tinkers like Bunyan, lay people like Brother Lawrence, and maybe someone you know down the street who shames you with his or her grasp. . . . Theology is often done by the unlikely. . . . God's ways are still discovered by his friends and not in virtue of techniques and agencies of power.

Paul Holmer The Grammar of Faith, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978, p. 21

 

Discipleship in Daily Life

Christ of the Everyday

Christ of the Everyday
Resource Type
Book
Author
Jeff Astley
Publisher
SPCK (2007)
ISBN
0281058806
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More Information
Comment

"Christ of the Everyday" seeks to help us discover the true meaning of the way of Jesus. Two convictions permeate the text. The first is that to be converted is, in the end, not so much a matter of seeing different things as of seeing the same things differently; and that 'having the eyes of faith', in this sense, is a major component of being a person of faith. The second conviction is that most religious insight is something that happens, if it happens at all, in the midst of the ordinary experiences of life - including our experiences of solitude, suffering, friendship and joy. It is in and from such locations that Christians develop their perspective on Jesus.

Reflective Living

Ordinary Theology: Looking, Listening and Learning in Theology (Explorations in Pastoral, Practical & Empirical Theology)

Ordinary Theology: Looking, Listening and Learning in Theology (Explorations in Pastoral, Practical & Empirical Theology)
Resource Type
Book
Author
Jeff Astley
Publisher
Ashgate (2002)
ISBN
0754605841
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More Information
Comment

"Ordinary theology" is the theology of the church's front line; it is truly a warts and all theology open to the alley; statistically speaking, it is the theology of God's church.

Taking Ordinary Theology Seriously

Taking Ordinary Theology Seriously
Resource Type
Book
Author
Jeff Astley
Publisher
Grove Books, (2007)
ISBN
9781851746583
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More Information
Comment

Where do we look for theology? Who does it, and who owns it? The authors argue that there is such a thing as ‘ordinary theology'. It exists outside the university and the theological college; nevertheless, it should be taken seriously. Taking Ordinary Theology Seriously includes an analysis of interview studies in which regular churchgoers reflect on their beliefs about the person and the power of Christ. Their views raise important issues for the pastoral and educational ministry of the church.

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