Part Three - For the Life of the World: Epilogue - Living Theologically
The epilogue is subtitled “Living theologically.” Stevens suggests that this phrase is an oxymoron to many. Theology is an abstract discipline detached from every day life. Therein lays the problem. Stevens is fond of the quote by Puritan William Perkins, “Theology is the science of living blessedly forever.” So how do we make the connections? Stevens suggest that we look through three lenses: Orthodoxy, orthopraxis, and orthopathos.
Orthos relates to something being “straight” or “right.” “Doxa” means “glory” or “worship.” “Doctrine that lines itself up (orthos) with scripture is designed to be a blessing to every day life and, at the same time, to bless God (doxa) in life itself." (244)
Stevens argues that the key to healthy orthodoxy is redeeming the routines of every day living. Each act of daily live is an opportunity to engage in orthodoxy. He recounts the themes in the book like stewardship, incarnation, equipping and ecclesiology. All of this involves straight thought. While this is challenging, what is more dangerous is unapplied theology. A purely intellectual orthodoxy tempts us to think we can manage God. “Theology begins with admiration, not problems” Stevens writes.
Stevens also writes that “The goal of biblical theological education is to increase our love for God and to make us more human.” (246) I particularly liked is statement, “Doctrine that does not lead to doxology is demonic.”
Orhtopraxy relates to “right practice.” Reflection on orthodoxy leads us to action. Our actions lead us back into reflection. Stevens writes:
True Christian action – orthopraxy – is gratuitive, free from contrivance, free from a calculating spirit, free from contract: I do this for God and God does this for me. Orthopraxic living is essentially spontaneous. With Jesus in our hearts we love because there is someone in need, not to gain approval by God or to receive the benefits of Christian action. (250)
Then later here writes:
Orthopraxis is not measured by excellence, by efficiency or by it religious character, but by faith, hope, love. We must cultivate the heart and not merely the husk of such action. (251)
Orhtopathos is a word coined by Richard Mouw meaning “right caring.” Not only must we educate the mind but we must educate the heart. Stevens writes, “Chrysostom argues that the rich are not owners of their wealth but stewards for the poor.” (252) I would suggest the rich are stewards for God who cares deeply about the poor, but the bottom line is we need to have what we care about rightly ordered. When we truly invest our neighbor it inadvertently becomes a means of grace for us. Taking action to care about the things God cares about changes the nature of our caring. We need to develop a right passion for God and to become passionate about the things God is passionate about.
As he wraps up this epilogue, he offers this rhetorical question?
Might not the most pernicious heresy in the church today be the disharmony between those who claim to be theologically approved but live as practical atheists? (254)
I think this heresy in rampant within the Church. Until we address the issue of equipping every believers to be a minister in the world 24/7/365, the Church will continue with to be impotent in the world.
This is the end of the book. I will have some wrap up comments tomorrow as well as an index.