Thick Lives, Thick Theology

The question of this guest-edited issue of Perspectives can be asked in two ways. First, we are asking a broad question: How does Christian theology illuminate the weight and depth of our day-to-day lives, such that our lives can be experienced and shaped in accord with that weight and depth? As David Bentley Hart has recently claimed in “The Experience of God” (Yale, 2013), “We have, in fact, no direct access to nature as such; we can approach nature only across the interval of the supernatural.” Karl Barth, through a different route, makes a similar claim in “Church Dogmatics”: “In the Word spoken in disclosure of the divine mystery, there is also disclosed what the creature itself cannot disclose as its truth, namely that it is creature, the creature of God but no more; that it is grounded, yet not in and by itself, but in and by God” (IV:3.1). If the creation is what it is and does what it does because it is the creation of the triune God, then theology buoys and defines our knowledge of the creation.

Put negatively, we don’t recognize our lives apart from knowing the triune God. Put positively, when we know God, we also experience the significance of our lives. So in this issue, we offer pieces that inquire into layers of our day-to-day lives and suggest how an encounter with the triune God illuminates that layer of life. Second, this issue offers a particular doctrinal approach to this question (although not every piece will do this explicitly): How does our participation in Jesus Christ and thus our participation in the life of the triune God illuminate our day-to-day lives?

For example, Todd Billings has recently argued in “Union with Christ” that, with regard to justice, “the challenge for Christians in a North America context is to see how justice fits into a God-focused, Christ-centered gospel, a gospel that is not about our own heroic action but instead is about how we find our place in the drama of salvation, the story of the Triune God made known in Jesus Christ” (Baker Academic, 2011). Without placing justice within “the covenantal, Trinitarian and Christ-centered state of being in union with Christ,” either the gospel becomes simply a means of exhorting justice or justice becomes an add-on to the gospel.

Just so, this issue offers essays and fiction that find the texture of our everyday lives within the history of Jesus Christ and the life of the triune God. The goal is to show that doctrine is important not simply as a way to capture the theological pattern of biblical texts. Doctrine – particularly the doctrines of Christ, the Trinity and salvation – matters in the shape of our living.

Keith Starkenburg is associate professor of theology at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Ill. Trygve D. Johnson is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College, Holland, Mich. They are guest editors for this issue.