Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Principle of Integration

John Wesley was a fascinating man. The more I read about him and by him the more I come to appreciate his theological methodology and particularities. Wesley shares my great love for the church fathers, particularly the Greek fathers. Their influence on Wesley is often quite apparent. Wesley's affinity for the Eastern fathers contributed to his task of integration. Wesley was one of the few theologians who have seen the need to integrate Western and Eastern Christian distinctives and do so in a way that compliments those distinctives.

Certainly even a theological novice could ascertain that there are significant differences and orienting concerns that accompany Western and Eastern theology. At times these difference have come into vicious conflict with one another. Yet Wesley was one who saw value in both traditions and, to an extent, melded the gold from each. One of the primary reasons that Wesley had this flexibility is because he did not so much endeavor to take up the task of theology systematically, his theology flowing from an idea or system. Rather, Wesley primarily was formed by what Maddox calls his orienting concerns. This subtle shift allowed for Wesley to pay greater attention to integration.

I have found that churches and individuals often err in extremes. For example, I am one who decries the theological bankruptcy of many contemporary worship songs. However, I am not opposed to the contemporary worship style. Quite to the contrary I enjoy it. Beyond this I have found that it is not always necessary that a worship song be filled with theological content. A well rounded service can contain songs that simply bring congregants into the intimate presence of God without deep theology. What becomes a problem is when extremes are adopted as norms. It seems we are often better at over-correcting than balance and integration. No, I don't want to sing a ton of songs that make Jesus sound like my "boyfriend," but I also see the value in some songs that are less than theologically integritous.

In essence, the principle I desire to see highlighted more often is that of integration. But, interestingly while this principle is often one which people respect and discuss it is rarely practiced. Western Christians continue to highlight only the pardoning aspect of salvation while Eastern Christians may highlight only the power of transformation and fail to speak of pardon. Evangelicals bemoan liturgy as rote and meaningless, while liturgical folk see evangelical worship as shallow and meaningless. Of course these are gross generalizations, still the spirit of integration is often espoused but not practiced.

What is it that makes integration so difficult to actualize?
Do you have any ideas how we could begin to make changes in our local churches?

1 comment:

David Drury said...

A good reminder here of what is easy to forget when following the Wesleyan traditions: that Wesley was primarily a MEDIATING FORCE in the Christian Traditions... Being a true wesleyan means briding the gap, integrating the both, the and, forgeting the either, the or, and finding practical ways to live out theology and worship.

Good reminders for me today.