©2008 NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO
Theology. Here’s a word that scares most Americans, even those who are generally a part of an established church. After all, we believe that only the clergy and the deep thinkers are truly theologians. But break the word down to its bits and what do you have? The study of God. Who is it that studies God? Simplistically, I would answer everyone. Even those who make it a point to point out that they believe that there is no God have spent time studying to decide that they do not believe in God.
Those of us who have been to institutes of higher learning with the express purpose of studying God have become theological snobs of a sort with the end goal of convincing others that our ideas about God are the right ideas about God, and theirs are not unless they agree with ours. Ed Cyzewski has taken a few pages to try to break through these barriers—both the fear of addressing theology, and the prejudicial version that most people like me practice—and find the relevance of theology in the everyday life of a postmodern world.
Before dismissing the book altogether because Cyzewski gives a level of legitimacy to postmodernism (which would turn hundreds of conservative evangelicals off before breaking open the book at all), set aside your semantic prejudices and take a moment to do what the author suggests: reflect on God.
Cyzewski addresses how postmodern thinkers think about God because, he argues, we are living in a postmodern world. We have moved beyond the modern age which taught us to try to find the definitive answer to all questions by using logic and the scientific method and into the postmodern era (dated at 1970 and beyond) which suggests that you must attack any question from a variety of angles. The ultimate in postmodern thought leads us to the sad conclusion that there is no real truth. The Christian response keeps the ultimate truth of Salvation through Christ in focus while remembering that we as humans cannot assuredly claim to understand all that there is to know about Christ.
In addressing the tricky task of theology, the author suggests that we all approach our own theology within the context where we live—so Americans see God through the eyes of the American culture, Latin Americans see Him through the eyes of their culture, and so on. In order to accomplish our task of knowing God better and making Him known to the world in which we live, we must first understand our own culture. Then we can at least begin to see the strong points and shortfallings brought to the table in our culture.
According to Cyzewski we must consult three theological perspectives in order to arrive at the answers to theological questions that crop up in everyday life. The place to begin as we reflect on God is the Scripture. This is the foundation and the best witness to who God is and how He works in the world. Any other sources that we use to build our theology should be measured by Scripture. Again we should remember that we read the Bible through glasses that are tinted by our culture and should strive to overcome the limitations that our personal preferences build in to the conversation that we have with the Bible as we read.
The other “experts” that we should include as we approach theology are church tradition and the global community of Christians. Church tradition can guide us by keeping us on a stable path, as long as the tradition is not a contradiction to the Bible itself. Consulting with Christian thinkers from other parts of the world from our own will open our eyes to perspectives that we cannot see through our cultural biases.
Coffeehouse Theology at times gets a little heavy as you read, especially in the passages dealing with history and philosophy that brought us to the postmodern age in which we live. Even so, it is a readable volume that basically suggests that in order to be the best theologian (reflector on God) we can be we should expand our horizons and let our theology grow. I would have to agree with that assessment and give this book four out of five reading glasses. Pick up a copy today and discuss it over a cup at your local coffeehouse.
—Benjamin Potter, February 19, 2009