Chaisson believes wholeheartedly in the scientific method-- even going as far to say that we can use the scientific method to answer the age old questions traditionally in the realm of theology (and later philosophy). This is his bias (and I would add faith system-- he alludes to this in his first paragraph). These questions include but are not limited to: who are we? where did we come from? how did everything around us originate? How does order emerge out of chaos? Why is there something rather than nothing?
Chaisson believes that the single greatest change taking place today is the human discovery in the last century that everything is composed of the same "material" or energy (electrons,etc.), including humanity. In this way, humanity is not distinguished at all from the rest of creation. Yet, even being indistinguished , we are the only creatures with the ability to manipulate life itself (for good or for destruction). "The physicist unleashes the forces of nature; the biolgist experiments with the structure of genes; the psychologist influences behavior with drugs. We are, in fact, forcing a change in the way things change" (page 23).
Because of these abilities (which are still in their infancy), we logically turn to the field of ethics. Humanity can bring life or bring death. The individual Adam of Genesis 3 is now the global Human with a similar choice-- A Tree of Good and Evil whose fruit bring's death or A Tree of Life whose fruit brings life and healing to all. However, the choice is not in a garden but in a globe. Humanity must see itself as a whole, as one group of people. Without such an outlook, we invariably relapse into the segregation and violence of nation-states, city-states, and the other various forms of human government over our history.
I, of course, would suggest a Jesus-oriented ethic for such a world. Indeed, the followers of Jesus were to create such communities (church bringing the kingdom of God); however, the historic Christian church has mostly entangled itself in the segregated politics and ethics of the nation-state.
The books takes up the task of creating a framework for exploring a theological cosmology. What is cosmology? According to the introduction it is "the broad world view which orients our culture." I would change this to "a particular culture." This particular book is written from a more liberal perspective, thus it is willing to take a seat at a table with evolutionary biology and modern philosophy. Nevertheless, it seemingly offers some very helpful insights into how theology can explore our world/reality. I am very excited to explore this book and the issues it raises.
What is theology? How do we recove a truly biblical basis for the theological enterprise, especially in the world? The idea of clergy and laity is a negative theological dichotomy. In Scripture, the term clergy (kleros) is used of the whole people of God. "A theology of the whole people of God must encompass not only the life of God's people gathered, the ekklesia, but he church dispersed in the world, the diaspora, in marketplace, government, professional offices, schools and homes" (page 8, The Other Six Days by R. Paul Stevens). A true ecclesiology will "encompass earhly realities and expounds the menial, the trivial, and the necessary: washing, cleaning, maintaining the fabric fo this world, play, games, art, leisure, vocation, work, ministry, mission and grappling with the principalities and powers. It must help us understand and experience sexuality, family and friendship. It must show us the place of sabbath and sleep" (page 8).
Francis of Assisi: "Humankind has as much knowledge as it has executed." Theology must also be emotional. Indigenous people must practice theology on the go, in lived reality, in the "fresh dirt" of our worldly existence. Although these theologies run the risk of being incomplete, inadequate, and even heretical, they are the best way of doing theology. It is hermeneutics at its best.
Bottom-up theology, on-the-spur-of-the-moment theology, is the theology of the people and as such represents true discourse and study of God, for the discovery of God takes place in his creation, the world, rather than in the classroom of concrete and stone and abstract thinking created by humans as found in the university. This is not to demean the theological journey of the academy, for it is necessary to find an orderly way of creating the bounds of theology. However, this is always the secondary step.
The primary arena of ministry and theology is not the in-house service of the church, rather it is the marketplace-- the place where goods, services, and information are exchanged. How can the church equip people for full-time ministry in the world? Why do we not ordain and commission "the laity" in their daily lives?
The Reformation failed in reforming ecclesiology. Instead, it was much more concerned with soteriology. The priesthood of all believers was interpreted according to its effect on individual salvation. As such, the structures of Protestatism borrowed its models from Rome and the growing world of the middle-class business. Because of this, we have never learned how to do wide-spread theological education in the congregation-- true theology that is lived in the marketplace. One must conclude from the way churches do not engage the people in their daily work that the church has no interest in this and that faith is a privatised sacred system that takes place in a walled building with religious symbols.
The concept of the individual Christian is a false one. No such concept exists in Scripture. In the Bible, the smallest component of the church is the church. The ministry of the church is mutual, to one another.
Even in the worst situations, something good is occurring and should be identified. This does not mean that we ignore the negative or sugar-coat it. Rather by identifying the good, we can leverage the positive in order to create a foundation for change. What we focus on creates our reality. If we are focusing on the negative, then we will continue to reinforce the negative. However, if we choose to focus on the positive, we will continually reinforce the positive over time.
Appreciative inquiry primarily relies on questions because the act of asking a question begins the change process. Questioning often requires a naming/describing process to occur. Finally, a person or system can move confidently into the future when they are able to carry the best parts of their past with them.
I have been exploring appreciative inquiry for a few years now. The Associate Pastor at my church and I have used it in many situations with very positive results. I am now using it as I explore faith and calling with families in my youth ministry. I will keep you updated on this progress. More on appreciative inquiry in the future.