Doctrine & Discipline: Our Prolegomena
Doctrine & Discipline is the Papyrus‘ newest section. Doctrine literally means “teaching” and commonly connotes some theological discourse. Discipline refers to a branch of knowledge within higher education. Thus, as a Christian higher education institution, we thought it is appropriate to dedicate a section of the school’s newspaper to teaching & knowledge. Therefore, we bring you D&D in the hopes of bringing about reflective and insightful discussions across campus. In order to do so, however, we must begin by stating our prolegomena.
Originating in Latin and Greek, prolegomena literally means “said before.” This is to say that it is a foreword. If you have been privileged to hear Dr. Brian Hartley say this word, you know that it is significant. Informed by forty years of theological study, Hartley says it with such gravitas that his well-manicured hair begins to shake in a tassel like frenzy. His hands grip tightly and his face wears the weight.
It is your beginning, and thus, it dictates where we end up. Now, if you have heard Dr. Hartley say this word, you must also know that when he was a student at Greenville College, students were required to write their own prolegomena. This however, was not today’s basic level ‘who God is to you’ reflection paper. Rather, it was a methodical 25 to 30-page paper dedicated to the student’s own theology. In like manner to Hartley and the tradition that emanates from the 1970s at Greenville, we too must state where as a section we are beginning. By doing so, we have a reference point, but also a direction to where we are going to “end up.” Thus, the following is an attempt…an attempt at a prolegomena. However, as sinful undergraduates we must acknowledge that this attempt and the overall section is bound to be faulty at best. That being said, we first have to examine why theology is significant and why we are all participating in it.
Kelly Kapic’s “A Little Book For New Theologians” begins by expounding how all of us are truly doing theology. Derived from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (words) Kapic demonstrates how all are immersed in theology when they plainly speak of God. Consequently, we ought to continue to study theology for and in Christ. That being said, we are all not inclined to expound Plato’s “Republic” and apply it to our relationship with God. However, we are called to reflect on God, faith, and how we are called into a relationship with Him.
But how do we pursue a relationship with God? We do so through both individual and corporal modes. Part IV of Aristotle’s “Poetics” states that imitation is an instinct of our nature. This is to say that humanity utilizes imitation as a mode of education. Thus, one is compelled to imitation because it begets enjoyable learning experiences. Therefore, by habitually attending to imitation, one has the potentiality and opportunity to cultivate virtue–or in our case, faith. This is demonstrated in classic modes of Christian worship, specifically, the Catholic Church. It utilizes a largely unchanged liturgy in corporal worship. In doing so, it attempts to teach theology through imitation. Although the liturgy at large is not in imitation of Christ, the corporal worship is. By being centered on the juxtaposition of the Word and celebrating the breaking and sharing of bread, the Catholic Church emphasizes that the Way of Christ is deeply involved in communal readings of scripture and sharing meals with one another. Thus, in like manner to imitation-centered Catholic liturgy, we at Greenville College are in holy worship when we are in chapel and or eating (unholy food) at the Dining Commons. Therefore, our lives have the potentiality to be transformed within worship or in the mundane acts of sharing a meal.
However, the mundane acts in our lives will continue to be mundane until we find a way to overcome it. Kelly Kapic calls this state a foggy haze. He derives this state from our finite knowledge of God. Furthermore, this finite knowledge is caused by sin. Nevertheless, sin is transcended through the act of reconciliation. Having said this, mankind at large neglects to take the posture of reconciliation. Rather, we as committed churchgoers take the posture of the older son in the parable of prodigal son. By assuming our atonement, we compromise a furthered relationship with God and all of His creation. Consequently, we easily become stagnant in our pursuit of His wisdom.
This lack of His wisdom affects every aspect of life. Simply by avoiding reconciliation with God, humankind, and His creation, we allow ourselves to be derailed from the truth that lies in God. Thus, reconciliation ought to be and is a pivotal part of the Christian life. Along with personal pursuit of reconciliation, corporate acts of worship inform our theology. One’s faith is a not only a personal relationship with God, but also a relationship with a community.
This said, community goes beyond Greenville College and the contemporary Christian Church. Rather, it is the billions before us who have striven to be Christ-like and those who will come after us. When we align our sites to the larger said community we realize that we are not in our own play, but what Samuel Wells calls God’s five-act play. It is here in this realization the unlikeliness of reconciliation become real and the mundane become divine. Therefore, we at D&D (Doctrine & Discipline) acknowledge our own faults, but find an abundance of splendor in God’s awe-inspiring narrative and the ability to participate in it—even for but a breath.