ARMCHAIR THEOLOGY

Honestly. Is there another kind?

Perhaps there is.

Once again, I stray from my home base of expertise, assuming I have any. God’s love, the Bible, and homelessness is my real homebase. I am not a leading thinker in any of those, though I do a little lead thinking in them from time to time. Still… no one defers to me for my expertise.

No one.

Ever.

The only place I ever came across the phrase “armchair theology” (I think) is in a couple different places in the vast ocean of N.T. Wright books. I am certain he didn’t make a big point of it either. Gave it passing mention. I’m finding it difficult to recall the exact context. So, I will guess at it. I believe he contrasted some of the theology we get into today (in schools, churches, SBL conferences and the like) with St. Paul traveling the known world, mostly on foot, perhaps with a pack-animal to carry tentmaking tools and a few scrolls.

It was a contrast, if memory serves me, between a theologian in and out of jail, facing riots, and working his fingers to the bone for long days only to study late into the night and those of us with a cup of coffee or a latte at our side, a comfy chair, and perhaps some nice soft music having a nice devotional moment or preparing for a quiz in school.

What can I say? Something in the contrast stuck with me even if I can’t properly recall the book it was in or the context in which it was written.

I happen to belong to a church with a rich heritage of precision Bible study. The present generation doesn’t do our heritage justice, but I expect we are still one of the more biblically exact assemblies of believers. And that’s not to say we understood Jesus correctly either. You can know book, chapter, and verse quite well and miss Jesus (consider John 5:39-40, for instance). Yet surely there is still great value in know the Scriptures well.

But the question arises then: Is there a difference in coming to Jesus in Bible study from the comfort of an armchair and a jail cell?

Is it an innate difference? One which would invalidate armchair theology out of hand?

I expect if that were the case, we should jettison N.T. Wright books! (Which is not my argument against the point, btw.)

But I will say this much for that notion: A jail cell may not be a guarantee of a broken and contrite heart, but a comfy armchair certainly isn’t. I cared about the homeless (in theory) for many, many years before I knew any homeless people. I “cared” about them a long time before I ever took one home to eat, to get a shower, to sleep in the guest room.

Also, I came to a whole new understanding of Revelation 3:20 praying with homeless brothers against a freezing wind outside a locked-up church house door in the middle of the night than I ever did in school or any armchair. I’m wondering now if this difference doesn’t go a long way in explaining the disconnect between my church and me.

I wonder if that armchair theology isn’t a hindrance, at least some of the time.

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One comment

  1. StainedbytheSpirit · 21 Days Ago

    I say it’s pointless to know JESUS in the BIBLE if you are unwilling to see and meet with HIM in the world! GOD BLESS

    Like

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