Anthony F. Krisak writes in “Theological Reflection: Unfolding the Mystery” that theology “is not an abstract musing ..but it is a challenging and thoughtful reflection on the way God’s hand is involved in the day to day experiences of men and women…Rather, theology is about God-with-Us (Emmanuel).”
The window of theology
Krisak makes it clear that reflecting on this divine encounter leads the observer to face “concrete, historical, and passionate movements and experiences.” Our experience becomes the “window of theology”. This window is useless if we understand mystery to be “unknowable ideas and complicated theories”. According to Krisak, if we understand mystery as a continual unfolding event in and around us, theology can be that window to observe and interpret our own experience.
Theology as a window goes against the claims that God is unknowable and that we should just accept secondhand understandings of God provided to us by an intellectual elite. Theology as a window of observing and interpreting experience is a fundamental assumption in the primary project of Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Gospels, Jesus tells us to observe the signs of the times and everyday experience — a person who sells everything for a fine pearl, the rapid growth of the mustard tree from a tiny seed, the one who goes out to harvest a crop. It is faith that allows the sun to shine through the window of theology. “Through theological reflection, our intertwined lives with God become conscious and faithfully deliberate; in other words, we begin to take in more profoundly the sights and sounds and smell of our life with God and each other.”
Without theological reflection, the pressures of everyday living can cause us to lose sight of what we are all about. Krisak particularly warns ministers of this hazard, since his article appears in the Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers. However, it is easy to see how everyday lay people can also fail to pay attention to the action of God in their lives. Unfortunately, many are not even aware that they are called to reflect upon and deepen their experience of God by reflecting on and noticing God’s actions.
This is especially ironic since we live in a culture that focuses very heavily on relationships. We have large psychological, educational, and popular movements to help us find the right partners, to save our marriages, to raise our children properly, to organize our businesses, corporations, and churches. How do we improve our love life with God? How do we even relate to God? When we think about it, we know we do or at least we think we do. We are called to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, to proclaim it, and to bring it about in God’s grace. It is unfolding within us and around us.
What does theological reflection require?
Krisak wisely points out that the backdrop or context for our theological reflection is our shared faith in both the Hebrew and Christian traditions. To engage in fruitful theological reflection according to Krisak, we need to:
(1) understand the tools necessary for “cleaning up the window of theology”,
(2) consider the process of reflection in relationship to human experience, and
(3) take a look at the “major themes of our theological tradition” such as the incarnation and redemption, among others.
In subsequent posts, I will review these three areas of focus that Krisak recommends for doing theological reflection and understanding the ways in which we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Image: “Simultaneous Windows” by Robert Delaunay,
1912, Public Domain