If you haven’t checked out the ‘About Us‘ page, you may want to start there. It’s a great summary of why we’re doing what we’re doing, and it lays a foundation for this introductory series over the next few weeks.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (NIV)
We have a responsibility to work toward unity in Christ. According to Paul, this is pretty straight forward. Be like-minded, have the same love, be of one spirit and mind. Don’t be selfish or conceited, but love and value others above yourself. When I don’t have to deal with other people, this is super easy. Unfortunately for my introverted, sinful nature’s attempt to stay alive (Romans 7:14-25), God calls me to interact with and love my brothers and sisters in Christ.
So I’m faced with a decision: Do I remain alone and “do theology” by myself as I study and learn about God? Or do I move out into relationships, walking through the nasty mess of saved-yet-not-perfected individuals engaging in theology together? Paul’s instructions to the Philippians makes my decision simple.
I am united with Christ, his love has comforted me, and his Spirit unites me with other believers and motivates tenderness and compassion. Now I face the task of living like those who walk in the light (1 John 1:7). Sometimes this is difficult and I want to duct tape mouths shut or point a condemning finger. But other times Jesus’ work in my life pokes through and it becomes easy. This is the essence of Paul’s instructions in Philippians 2 and the heart of what we mean by “Theology in Progress.”
Theology in progress is about community working through tough issues with love. It doesn’t mean tolerance for all views, or the belief that all views are valid and true. There is one truth, Jesus Christ. However, it does mean working through questions and issues with an open mind and a willingness to walk with others through tough times. It means loving others while they work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
John Piper once said, “Every Christian is at least an amateur theologian—that is, a person who tries to understand the character and ways of God and then put that into words. If we aren’t little theologians, then we won’t ever say anything to each other about God and will be of very little real help to each other’s faith.”
In a nutshell, my theology drives me outward after I encounter the holy and loving God. The progress of this driving movement is what we call “Theology in Progress.” As I continue in my relationship with God–as I “do theology”–he changes me. This change always makes me more like him. We all work toward a common goal with the Spirit’s help: being like Jesus. At the same time, I struggle to be like Jesus. Sometimes this change progresses quickly. Other times it progresses so slowly I hardly notice any movement at all.
Paul sets up a Christ-like standard in Philippians 2:1-4. We want Theology in Progress to conform to this standard (we’ll discuss the reason for this standard next week). However, we are all at different stages in our Christian walks; some are much closer to this standard than others. The key is progress. In a comment to Brandon last week, I mentioned C. S. Lewis’ chapter “Nice People or New Men?” in Mere Christianity. If you haven’t read this, I would highly recommend it; Lewis hit the nail on the head when it comes to what progress should look like in the Christian life.
Over the next few weeks we want to demonstrate our theology in progress by looking at more of Paul’s message in Philippians 2:1-13. This passage is our banner, and Christ shines from its center.