For our next assignment, my class has been asked to write about what we think is the most important question in theology. The basic idea is that asking the right questions is the key to getting the right answers, and it probably serves to give us more focus in our theological formation. It also serves as a wide-open assignment which allows us to think for ourselves rather than paraphrasing what we’ve been reading or explaining specific points from older theologians.
By that same token, there are no wrong answers in this paper; there are an awful lot of good questions to ask, and all of them are very important. After all, God created reality, and so theology deals with all parts of reality in one way or another. For many people, the only things in life that are truly important are the things that directly affect us – or the things that we can directly affect; for them perhaps the theological question of “who are we?” or “what must we do/how shall we live?” are the most important. But of course, those questions will be affected by the answers to larger questions, such as “what is reality” or “who is God?” Many people seek the bigger picture, and there are many different ways to see such a big picture; the person who asks “what is reality” will learn more about God because he is the creator and sustainer of reality, while the person who asks “who is God” will learn more about reality because of that same relationship.
This assignment really makes me realize just how differently people see reality, and understand God. A prof recently mentioned that when we preach, we should remember that for every person in the congregation in front of us there is a different understanding of God. Most of the time the differences are fairly small – thanks to the concept of orthodoxy for that – but postmodernism has certainly taught us that perspective counts for an awful lot, and no two people see the world in exactly the same way. Subtle differences in belief will always exist, even if they cannot be noticed in the way we talk about God. Even within a denomination, within a particular church within a particular denomination, there is no such thing as complete uniformity in belief – and that’s sort of scary for some people. For others, it’s fairly exciting; I hope you’re one of the latter (and I hope that I am too).
So what do you think is the most important question in theology? Your answer to that question will undoubtedly reveal more about you than it will about God. Personally, I’m loathe to even start the assignment, because I can’t narrow the all-encompassing nature of God to a single question – so I’m left picking one that’s most important to me, or at least to me right now, and sticking with it even though I know it’ll probably change even before the paper is done. Perhaps the topic of the paper itself is its own answer.
Who is God? What is reality? How then shall we live? What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me…don’t hurt me…no more…). These are all hugely important, broad questions – but broad questions tend to only inform more basic questions, and those basic questions tend to be more immediately important. So assuming some knowledge of reality, my own existence, and the existence of God, perhaps the most important question in theology for me personally is: where do I stand with God? Once again, this is a question that will tell me just as much about myself as it will about God – but I guess that’s the nature of a relationship, isn’t it?