One of the ways I would hope to distinguish Multnomah’s theology program is to create an integrated approach to theology.
I have in mind the modern tendency to fragment and disconnect theology into different area of specialization and to disconnect theology, particularly academic theology, from ethics, sanctification, and “practical theology.”
Lately, I have started to view theology as one aspect of our participation with Christ. The Church Fathers never split theology, contemplation, and the virtuous life apart from one another. They were reciprocally related to one another. Personally, I feel this disconnection between sanctification and theology has created the wide-rift in the church between doctrine and “real life.”
Another focus that I see as vitally important is theology’s role in helping us understand how we live in this world and relate to those around us. I love Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on the resurrection providing us a new way to live in this world (not because he lacks a hope in the future, but because our future is secure in the resurrected Lord, we have a new, different way of life in this one). This is, of course, linked to my first statement on an integrated approach to theology and is New Wine’s focus. What I don’t mean is just trying to sell how pragmatic and useful theology can be, but that we flesh out the implications of our theology for how we live in and relate to the world around us.
Additionally, I think Multnomah’s relational approach to teaching is unique. One of the main reasons I came back to Multnomah was because I knew that I would have relationships with my professors.
Ultimately, for me, theology is about the indescribable beauty of the mystery of the Triune God and the incarnate Christ. The beauty of this story cuts through my natural cynicism and rebelliousness. I realize God has me, not the other way around.
What I am trying to say is God’s beauty has grabbed a hold of me and I can’t shake Him off!
These are just my quick thoughts. I know this is a little lengthy for “quick” thoughts, but I am a theologian so being concise is not my strongest point!
Sara Mannen is a current student at Multnomah Seminary pursuing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Vocationally, her goal is to complete doctoral studies in order to teach theology. Sara’s areas of interest include patristic theology, contemporary Trinitarian theology, and cultural issues such as sexuality, gender, and economics. One of her passions is to invite fellow women to participate in the journey of theological engagement. For the past decade, Sara, along with her husband, have actively served and taught the youth at their church. When Sara isn’t working, studying, or attempting to raise her two daughters as budding theologians, she enjoys reading, baking, and outdoor activities.
Multnomah Biblical Seminary’s theological focus is unique because of its Trinitarian foundation. The personhood of God gives life to the theological community at Multnomah. The Trinity does not exist just as principle or theory. Rather the focus on Trinity as persons carries forward the relational aspect of theology.
The emphasis on relationships not only orient us towards holistic relationship with God, but also holistic relationships with one another. The Trinity saturates the theological engagements we have with the Church and with the culture around us. For theologians at Multnomah, God as persons permeates our persons.
As an academy, Multnomah’s seminary does not separate pastors and academics. Rather, the Multnomah community is a part of the movement that is remarrying the Church and the Academy. At Multnomah, I don’t have to choose between being a pastor or a theologian, I am not forced to choose between the church or the academy. There is no bifurcation between what is practical and what is theory because the theology we engage in is the theology we live out.
At Multnomah, I don’t have to choose between being a pastor or a theologian, I am not forced to choose between the church or the academy. There is no bifurcation between what is practical and what is theory because the theology we engage in is the theology we live out.
As a community of theologians at Multnomah, we don’t do our work outside of the Church. Rather, our theological work is for the Church, in the Church, and with the Church. A deep commitment to and for the Church is present because of Christ’s unwavering commitment to and for the Church. My personal relationship with God is more vibrant because of my time at Multnomah. At Multnomah Biblical Seminary, a pastor-theologian is not a title that we claim, a hat we put on, or a name-tag we wear, but it is a calling that we live out in our service of Christ’s church.
My experience in theological studies has always been edifying and rigorous, and that’s due to the love professors have for one another and for their students. I’ve found joy in professors being my teachers and mentors, but also in them becoming my friends. They have modeled biblical humility, submission, and integrity for me, and it is by their examples that I am further moved to love Christ and his bride.
Tony Huynh is a seminary student at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, OR. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies with the goal of entering into doctoral studies. His areas of focus are race, gender, and politics as related to the Church. Vocationally, Tony feels God leading him to be a pastor/theologian, to be a part of the movement remarrying the Church and the Academy. In his free time, Tony enjoys reading theological works, high fantasy, and political theory, and blogs at WordPress. Theologians that have shaped Tony’s thought are Henri Nouwen, Robert W. Jenson, James H. Cone, Soong Chan- Rah, and Sarah Coakley.
I agree with the great points that Sara and Tony have made, and look forward to how others can contribute to this conversation in the future.
I have a tendency to do my own thing as far as research, so I don’t want to foist my opinions as necessarily indicating a proper direction that everyone should go in, lest we all end up as confused as me.
Nonetheless, I joke with [New Wine’s Director] Dr. Paul Metzger that for myself and my own theological projects, I am always trying to justify my existence as a theologian (i.e. why did I spend so much money on this, instead of becoming a lawyer or a scientist)? Ironically I think I became a theologian because I find the Christian faith very difficult and often confusing. I like Stanley Hauerwas’ phrase: “not everyone has to be a theologian to be a Christian; but I did.”
I think [Swiss Theologian] Karl Barth would say at one level this makes me a bad theologian; God has revealed Himself as Lord, and if theology is anything other than a response and elaboration upon this, it has forsaken itself. I don’t necessarily disagree with Barth, but I also don’t find my own theological lungs strong enough to breath that pure, clear air that Barth did. I find my own theological journey to be very messy. When I get to heaven after cutting through theological jungles and scaling historical mountains, exhausted, I’m sure Barth will jokingly point out to me that there was a front door simply named “Jesus Christ.” He would be right, but some of us are only saved “as through flames.”
For me, theology is a lot like a story that G.K. Chesterton told at the beginning of The Everlasting Man and that always is in the back of my mind. It is about a boy who sets out from what he thinks is his boring life to undertake an adventure. Making his way down the hill that he lives on. He turns to take one last look before he sets out only to discover that the hill was not just a hill but actually the remains of a fantastic giant whose armor can still be seen poking out here and there, all of which was too large to be seen up close.
I find this a striking parable for theology in a secular age. Instead of being far away for a people who have left behind superstition and “come of age”, theology is everywhere, and often so close to us many do not see it. To unpack the metaphor: the origins of many things we take for granted as “common sense” or “naturally human” or “secular” have hidden theological roots that have forgotten what their true natures are, and the theologian’s job is to point out the theological strata that pervades everything. To switch metaphors, theology is taking our community on a journey that always returns to find the familiar, strange. Theology does not need to be made relevant in a secular age, rather what is mistaken as “secular” already carries the secret of theology within it.
Derrick Peterson completed his Masters of Divinity in Theological Studies and Masters in Historical Theology at Multnomah Seminary, and is now pursuing Ph.D. work. A few research areas of his include the interaction of theology and historiography, the history of doctrine, and the relationship between Christianity and science. He blogs at agreatercourage and several published and unpublished essays and reviews of his can be viewed here.