A Theology that Changes Us
Who cares for the “helpers”? Pouring into the lives of others as a vocation is rewarding, challenging, meaningful, frustrating, exhausting, and valuable work. Those in leadership roles often face specific temptations, and a failure to stay rooted in what matters most can take its toll on both one’s personal walk with God and closest relationships. That’s why we’re adding a monthly blog column especially designed to encourage those who serve in ministry roles.
I was taught Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology and Contemporary Theology. The seminary I graduated from made the candidates for graduation “agree” with their doctrinal statement in order to graduate. I call it “agreement theology.”
Larry taught Spiritual Theology.
While not discounting the importance of the traditional theological categories as I was taught, Larry exposed me to a whole new vista of theological studies. The Seven Questions:
- Who is God?
- What is He up to?
- Who am I?
- What’s gone wrong?
- What’s God done about the problem
- What’s the Spirit up to today?
- How can I join the rhythm of the Dance?
These 7 questions have become categories of thought, conversation and spiritual direction. James Houston described Spiritual Theology as “a theology that makes a difference in someone’s life.”
I was taught the Historical, Grammatical, Rhetorical method of hermeneutics (the science of interpreting the Bible). I was taught observation, interpretation, correlation, and application as the method of studying the Bible.
Larry taught relational hermeneutics.
Looking at the Scriptures first and foremost as a Love Letter, with 66 chapters, from God to us, a relational hermeneutic has changed how I read the Bible and how I teach/preach the Bible:
- What’s most alive?
- What stirs?
- Why is the author of this particular letter more excited about this topic than I am?
- How am I like/unlike the various characters in the Bible?
- What was going on inside the Bible authors/characters?
I was taught the behavioral model of sin. Larry taught relational sin, the energy behind the action or thought was sin.
I like to use humor. I found that I was using humor to keep a conversation light. I was using humor to impress folks with how funny I was or witty. I was using humor to make life “safer” for me.
One of my friends at work was looking dejected as he read a letter in his hand. “What’s the matter, get a pink slip?” I quipped.
“I might as well, as I was given an official reprimand.”
I was cut to the quick. Here I was making jokes, and I was not sensitive to what might have been going on in his heart. God’s word to me, “You do it all the time.” When I shared this with my wife she agreed.
What I’ve discovered as I embrace Spiritual Theology, Relational Hermeneutic, and Relational Sin is that I am now free. I am free to think, ponder, wrestle, wonder, stumble, propose, question, scream, repent, change, and love.
Very recently two thoughts have been bouncing around in my heart and head. The first, 2 Peter 1:3 NLT, “…God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” The second thought, “I’m always trying to fix myself” (denial of sin identified by Karla Denlinger).
Here’s the collision.
God has given me everything I need (right where I am and who I am with, and who I am, what I am experiencing) for living a godly life. My wife and my circle of family and friends are the primary people God wants to use to shape my life more like Christ. I had placed conferences/seminars/webinars/summits and people who live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away far, far above the people in my life. The people in my life were the ones God wanted to use to speak into my life.
My primary “fix myself” activity is reading. My wife Molly has struggled with all the books I buy. I dismiss her reticence as being “unspiritual.” She is actually on to something.
It is the day before Thanksgiving as I am writing this. Molly is downstairs preparing for the Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. I wanted to stay upstairs and read. I know that there are dishes to be washed and parts of the meal preparation I could help with. I wanted to stay upstairs and read, of all things, a book on marriage. I went downstairs to help, but I was not all in.
As I wrestled with my thoughts, I realized I could learn a lot more about marriage by working with my wife as we prepare this meal together. I could grow a lot more as a husband as I repented of my selfish attitude while I prepared a meal with her than I could by reading a book. I had given a book more priority than my wife. I was avoiding, escaping my opportunity to love my wife and grow in my love for God by trying to grow in knowledge by reading.
I am grateful that Larry taught Spiritual Theology, Relational Hermeneutic, and Relational Sin. I am grateful for collisions of thought that move me to brokenness, repentance and the release of Christ.
By: Pete Spear
About Pete: My wife Molly and I have been married 45 years. We have 3 grown children, 2 in-laws and 6 grandsons. After 36 years of vocational pastoral ministry I retired and am now working in a public school. I love doing life with this community. I have found spiritual formation in this setting to be both challenging and richly rewarding.