The following is the (rough) transcript of the lecture by Prof. Gareth Jones’s lecture “The Gospel as Ideological Critique: Questions of Truth and Method in Constructive theology.” It was the final lecture of the session, and in some ways forms an unexpected corrective and challenge to many of the thoughts of the conference. I apologise for the short-hand nature of the transcript, hopefully something will make sense.

My lecture was supposed to be “methodological engagements and the formation of Christian theologies.” But I have changed it in view of what the conference has been about.

Speak about the challenges and opportunities you face.

My job is to be intelligent.

One or two points in which you must agree.

Constructive Theology
I reject the tension between systematic and contextual theology
It is not a helpful tension.
Contextual theology is proper theology, it listens to the situation…
thus we are all constructive theologians…
are all responding to God’s word and to the people, to whom we are obliged to speak.

Ecumene as the inhabited world… is the world in which we operate.

I appreciate the methodological shift in colonial/postcolonial critique. I have no interest in repeating the colonial mindset.

What is the starting point …. the Christian existence…
Take people back to Jesus’ sermon before the synagogue in Nazareth… luke 4:16-21

The eyes of all were upon him. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

Imagine what it must have been like, to be there at that moment.

The first reality of the gospel, that Jesus Christ proclaims as God’s son, that he dies for the sake of the word, that most importantly the resurrection.

If one does not believe in the resurrection, then one is not a Christian.
One call follow a humanist philosophy to follow Jesus to become a better person, that’s ok, but that’s not Christianity.

This is the heart of the Gospel John 11.

Ideological critique… comes from this. …The question of attacking the underlying assumptions… of human intellectual positions…

In liberation theology… was through Marxism…

The gospel provides its own language to provide critique

Methodology belongs to thought…

The gospel belongs to God… it is not a construct of human thought… it not something that we acquire through power, it is a gift from God…

The gospel is not social, not political, not liberation… not feminist… it rejects every human construct.

Why does it reject every human construct… it is about the risen Lord… who comes from the limits of human ideology… from the limits of human understanding…
The importance of eschatology… b/c Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruit of the final resurrection. Because Jesus is risen,

If you don’t believe in the empty tomb, you are not a Christian. That whole eschatological reality is the starting point of Christian identity.
Paul, Peter, Thomas did it… all the people did it. It is the abiding vocabulary of what it is to be a Christian.

Eschatology, however, is not the same is teleology.
Teleology is about the human ascent / progress to certain stated goals… political/communitarian… human movement towards those goals…

WCC set itself to move towards certain goals… and when it couldn’t reach those goals… it failed by its own standards. Unrealisable goals. It was inevitable. It was a fatal weakness.

Eschatology has nothing to do with movement towards goals… not the goal of final judgment…
We have already been given the final judgement, we have it… we are returning home, as Christians. We are returning to God. Not a God who is undiscovered… but God who is always our origin. The resurrection has happened… and b/c it has happened… it is possible for us to become hearers of the Word. Our job is to articulate and live the resurrected life.

As teachers/theologians… we must never forget our origin in God. Never ever mistake methodological considerations for progress if by progress we mean a movement towards a better or deeper understanding of God.

We understand God because God gives Godself to us… through Jesus, through the fellowship of the holy spirit. Present realities not future goals.

The job of constructive theology is to respond to this truth.

That truth is axiomatic… it is a statement that allows for no demonstration.
Jesus Christ is risen indeed, it is the confession of life.

There is no philosophical system… to prove it. It is a confession, it comes from love/life/as community/as humanity… it isnot something that we can better articulate through better techniques, the poorest and the most intelligent can understand this basic truth…

It is given to us through our human identity… not through ontology, theology…

We are called to have a deeper understanding of that truth in our lives… we practice that through prayer, worship, pastoral care, through fellowship. The deeper truth… the sacrament… it speaks about the invisible mystery.

At a deeper level, it is articulating our responsibility to know God… as God is revealed to us.

The life of the Church in its early centuries… was centred in its true meanings… of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ… the doctrines that were revealed… were and are incarnation and trinity…

This will be an area of discussion… but for me… the doctrine of the trinity… in part about number. There are three person… in one being. Those three persons come together, are revealed together through the son.

We must be careful as Christian theologians to give away the gift that was given to us…
That revelation… of trinity… because it was an identity that the Church struggled hard to understand… through witness/prayer… not through methodology…

For me, it points us in conflict with other religions… it is not a fundamental gospel truth… but of practical consideration… how to live in this world…

But reality.

The kind of methodological questions we have been talking about… give us new challenges…

Now that I have set out the truth of the gospel…
Go on to talk about some of the things we have heard about contextual theology.

Context is not about situation. It is about people. The people of the context. The people of communities. We are not talking about geography, or space, we are talking about the needs/feelings/the fears and hopes of the people we serve. The opportunities we have to serve the people… need to be sharpened… so that we can better serve those people.

Methodology has an intensely practical dimension.

The shift to colonial to postcolonial… in-itself it recognises the movement from empire to independent sovereign state…
But much more importantly it has to do with better serving the needs of the people.

Methodological shift is not a goal in itself, it is a means to an end. So while it is accurate to say, to say from 1950s to now… where ideology has been established… and now we have moved into a fluid system. That is not an ideological position…. understanding it is not the goal or end initself. The way the world is changing… is a fundamental part of the situation our people find themselves.
Even India is going to face these changes.

The methodological questions need to respond to practically to the situation people finds themselves.

Not because it will give you an accurate picture of the world, but rather a more helpful picture of the world.

Method helps us to respond… is to listen.

We have a deeper responsibility than publish or perish… but rather record or perish.
The world is changing dramatically. In 20 years time, the world will have disappeared from where it is now. If Christian witness means anything, it means witnessing to the historical lives… in the company of the spirit. If we don’t record that… if we don’t respond to that… then no one else will.

Western world is deeply empoverished… because we never took seriously the … ?
We moved to a homogenised world. We have educated three generations of professionals who are ignorant of the origins of their people. It is not yet true of India. You still have the opportunity to listen to, to record the voices of the Christian people, the religious people. Before it is overwhelmed by the language of the capitalism.

It is your bad luck, that it falls to you and your generation, because if you don’t do it, then no one will do it.

ME: this fear of

Use any means to speak intelligibly to speak of the religious experiences of the people.

Use methodology because it works. Use it as a tool to achieve your goal… to experiences how Indian reflect on the gospel.

We are on a bridge.

We have to look to the communities we serve.
We are caught between truth and method.
And our job is to mediate between the relationships of truth and method.

We do not only think contextually… we have to be contextual. We have to model contextual.

We are thrown in the middle of an extremely challenging time…
Modelling constructive theology… means reflective writing

You have got to articulate better stories than your enemy…
Your enemy is not other religion or other Christians

Your enemy is secularisation… your enemy is non-religiousity.

We have to tell better stories for the sake of the gospel…

It is because that’s what we are called to do.
Write a better story, be a better story. Be disciples of Christ. Write constructively of the truth of the gospel. Confess the word in the world. But always do that, engage in the ministry, by remaining the fundamental ministry… the gospel of Jesus Christ risen.

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