The Coffeehouse Theology blog tour makes its stop here today! Ed Cyzewski, author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, responds to 4 of my burning questions here. I didn’t want to ask the typical junket questions like what is the book about, and he’s already explained why he wrote yet another book on contextual theology.
What would you like to ask Ed Cyzewski? Add a comment below, and since the blog tour is here today, he’ll respond!
Here’s my exclusive interview with Ed Cyzewski –
djchuang >> Having studied theology and thought about it a lot, I’m so glad that you’ve noted other ingredients that shape our theology besides the Bible, namely, tradition, God, and the global church. Some people say they have “no creed but the Bible.” What would you say to them, since I don’t think they’d read your book?
Ed: I’d tell them that my book is even better than the Bible… Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’d ask them where they got the idea that the Bible is their only creed. Did they think of that themselves, completely on their own, or are they part of a tradition supporting that view? This supposedly “high” view of scripture comes from tradition. So we can either act like our traditions don’t affect us, blinding ourselves to their influence, or we can recognize that doctrines and beliefs have been passed down to us and shape who we are, moving on with that awareness. The reality is, we’ll have a clearer understanding of scripture when we recognize the factors influencing how we look at it, taking them into account and perhaps opening ourselves to fresh perspectives–that may end up being even more biblical–outside our own traditions that have heretofore been guiding us.
djchuang >> I’m most interested chapter 10 in the book’s about the global church. I find that much of systematic and historical theology has been done in the Western world. What perspectives could church leaders outside of America give to the American church, as church attendance is plateaued and proportionally declining?
Ed: I wouldn’t profess to be an expert in global theology, but I’d say theologians outside America have a lot to teach us about balancing theology with social action and the place of the Holy Spirit in the church. I think theologically Conservative American Christians have a hard time integrating these two aspects because they fear losing their biblical foundation. After all, they may say, liberals supposedly abandoned the Gospel for social justice, and the charismatics are chipping away at the authority of scripture since they believe God’s Spirit is speaking and working today just like the times of the NT. I know I have a lot to learn from Christians outside of the west in these two areas. And if we can address these two areas, we may find out ways to effectively connect with our communities and to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit.
djchuang >> As an Asian American with bi-cultural background, I think it’s obvious that the multiethnic / multicultural context of the United States could be more of a context for a more racially and ethnically diverse theological discussion. Sadly, 11:00am Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America. What would it take to change that?
Ed: I’m a big fan of simple church. I understand that may not work for everyone, but in my own case, I needed to start over with church on a blank slate. I think Organic Church by Neil Cole is one of the most helpful books on ecclesiology out there, but then I’m betraying my simple church/low church bias. Anyway, if we take Cole’s more mission-minded approach that makes it possible for Christians to leave their churches and do their theology out where they minister, we’re taking the first step of getting Christians out of their homogenous circles. And while it’s not a sure thing, I’m hoping that once we’re going out to minister, we’ll start doing more theology in the mission field and we’ll also become a more diverse church. I saw this on some small scales when I lived in the Philadelphia area. Now I’m living in Vermont, which is just about as white as it gets, so my exposure of late to matters of diversity is nil!
However, the internet is probably our best hope for greater diversity accross racial lines when talking about theology. Accessibility is essential, and having blogs and other web sites from theologians different from myself is a tremendous blessing.
djchuang >> Based on the feedback you’ve received from this book, what do you think would be an ideal follow-up book?
Ed: There are two study guides that are meant to be follow up books. So far I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from people who find my take on contextual theology helpful. In light of that, I think it’s a pretty natural step to pick up the Bible Study Guide since it walks readers through the exact method I talk about in Coffeehouse Theology. The other is the Contemporary Issues Study Guide which looks at some of today’s pressing issues with an approach rooted in contextual theology.
Having said that, I think the next step for me after helping Christians with contextual theology, is helping my own tribe, American Evangelicals, sort through who we are, what our message should be, and how we can be the hope for our world. If we know something about our theology in this context, we now need to talk about how we offer the hope of the Gospel to those around us. With so much talk about hope in this election, I just don’t see enough of it coming from the church. So my next book will dig into what it means to be Evangelical today and how we can stop shooting ourselves in the foot by dividing, judging, etc. I ended Coffeehouse Theology with a challenge to unite around the Gospel message that God the Father loves us, God the Son saves us, and God the Spirit empowers us. I want to help Evangelicals unite around that message and help us live in its truth and power. If all goes well, I should be able to say more about it soon!
Thank you, Ed, for the great interview! How do you think your experiences, context, and community has shaped your theology?