Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Does theology change to meet social needs?

In my article entitled “Service of the Heart”, I stated:
“Jeremiah and Ezekiel, both priests, served as prophets in the period of time of great national tragedy, the destruction of the First Temple. In response thereto, they developed different theologies to address the temple’s destruction.”

Thus my question. Did both Judaism and Christianity develop new theologies in response to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.?

My second question may be related. Did Christianity continue to stress repentance in its recruitment efforts because this approach was more successful than an approach based upon what Hengel called the scandalous death of Jesus on the cross?

On September 15, 1851, George Fox wrote a letter to “My Friend” wherein he stated in part:

“Instead of taking my writings for a guide, they should be considered as helps marks for encouragement, and never for a moment as laws to govern others. No written code, however, it may be adapted, will be wholly suited to the time and circumstances for which it was designed, will be wholly suited as an ultimate christian standard--his must be a life ever on the watch, ready to examine whatever draws his attention, and if selfishness is sufficiently subdued, and prepossessions banished from the mind, then with an honest purpose of heart, independent of books or men, a judgment will be formed that will elevate and prepare the mind for advancement while in the body, and will necessarily introduce to a happy eternity.”

This letter was cited as an example of “Quaker Theology in Transition.” The Church of the Latter Day Saints (also called the Mormon Church) provides several additional examples of changes in theology to accommodate social change and/or social pressure. After Mormon leaders agreed in 1890 to refrain from performing plural marriages, Utah was granted statehood in 1896. According to Mormon doctrine, God continues to provide revelations on Earth. On June 9, 1978, then-church president Spencer Kimball, who is considered to be a prophet, announced the revelation that Black males were permitted to be ordained into the Mormon priesthood. "The cynical way is to say revelation is a convenient way to solve any problem Mormons run into," said O. Kendall White, a professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia who has written articles on blacks and Mormonism. "The other reading is to recognize it as a combination of divine and human sources. I see it as further accommodation to American society and the pressures that existed in society."

I had suggested that the Jewish Christian community described in the Epistle to the Hebrews recognized the logical inconsistency of a belief in the animal sacrificial system and a theology of the cross that does not replace the animal sacrificial system. However one must concede that at times religious beliefs are logically inconsistent. However, it is my opinion that modern exegesis appears to share the assumption of modern theology that religion is a rational matter. Several writers have commented upon the ambivalence shown by Luke towards Jerusalem and the Temple. Perhaps, this ambivalence is a recognition and reflection upon a theology in transition. In addition, perhaps a theology in transition can be seen by comparing the traditional Jewish expression, “the resurrection of the righteous” in Luke 14:14 with the statement made by the Lucan Paul in Acts 24:15 that not only the righteous but also the unrighteous will be raised.

I am very much interested in the concept of theology in transition as it might to be applied to Luke-Acts and the relationship of the Lucan writings to other New Testament writings. Therefore I am looking for resource suggestions.

copyrighted 2005


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