circumstance and emphasis

160506stfrancis21 To what degree are the things that we emphasize in our faith born out of our circumstances?  For instance, I read tonight that St. Francis of Assisi emphasized poverty as a sacred vow because of the abuse of materialism in the culture of his day.   (Sounds like today!)  Would he have perhaps emphasized marriage or leadership or parenthood had he lived in a different time or place?  Might he have found a better holy haircut had he lived in 20th century Milan?  Perhaps he wouldn’t have become known as such a friend to animals if he had lived in the heart of the Amazon jungle with piranha and boa constrictors.  How much did the emphases of his culture and time influence the development of his theology and spiritual formation?

In another completely different context, did men like Ted Haggard and Jimmy Swaggart preach so heavily against sexual sin because that was the major area of struggle in their life?  For us today, where we sit reading this silly blog… How much does the condition of our circumstance influence the emphasis of our theology and spirituality?  Does this limit us in our faith… or expand us?

I’m trying to determine if there is an overarching set of balanced spiritual principles that span throughout the centuries OR does God intend for us to place certain stress on particular principles/issues that are important to our own culture/experience/passions/????.  Does my question even make sense… Any thoughts?


  1. Andrew- thanks. I found your “Being, Knowing, Doing” summary really helpful. It seems that very few people in history could fit into all three of those categories… So we need a community of other believers around us to compliment our focus. All three are essential, I think, to a fully lived following of Jesus. Thanks!

  2. James, thanks for the comment. You sparked a good question for me- that I presented to God this morning. What should the main messages be that I will communicate in my lifetime?

  3. Theology, as you pointed out to me, Ken, is Theos and Logos. Word of God. Jesus. Ultimately our theology seems to stem from our relationship with Christ. As has already been pointed out, we are all individuals created in different fashions with different giftings and it is through said giftings that we find our relationship defined.
    The situations of our life are the first thing most of us will contribute to a conversation with a friend. I believe it is much the same with most of us in our prayer time with God. It would only be natural that people of God rebel against those things they see around them that do not conform to their understandings of their relationships with God or with others.
    I also just want to point out that my theology class taught me that there are three basic strands of Christian theology. Being, Knowing and Doing, as I call them. they are described in their names, but each group tends to focus the first and most inportant aspects of Christianity into one of those three things. Most Christians do not fit into a single column, but into a couple at least, but most will also find that they swing one way more than the others. These three things make up the whole of what Jesus told us to do here until he returns and I believe that each person within the body may contribute more to its overall understanding of one of these, but the true and whole body of Christ will fulfill all of these. Some are hands, some eyes and some feet type of stuff.
    Anyway, the tangent was meant to have a chance to say that depending on which one of these you associate with most, I believe that situations will also be responded to differently by every individual.

  4. I believe that there are a set of truths rooted in the very nature of God that spans the centuries. On the other hand I also beleive God has gifted each of us uniquely, and has chosen to place us in a specifc time and place to communicate these truths. As such each of us will emphasize and communiate these truths in our own way. One of the reasons why God has placed us in community, is so that together the truths of God are portayed in a balanced fashion.
    I heard one person comment, that a person usually only has one or two main messages that they communicate and emphasize throughout their life or ministry. Think about the people you read or who have taught you, and how many different messages or truths do they emphasize? Are there aspects of the gospel that they rarely touch on? Are there other topics or themes that they continue to emphasize? Do these shift over time, or just the way they communicate them change?

  5. You’re right on track with the question, Frieda. Thanks for your comment. I like that you’ve highlighted our need to listen to others. It’s in the community of God’s people that theology perhaps begins to find it’s balance. I suppose that’s the reason for the Councils in the early church for instance.

  6. Good question, Ken. I think that our circumstances have a strong tendency to influence our theology, in both positive and negative ways. Negative circumstances can cause us to search scriptures with more vigor, or they can make us angry/discouraged/self-centered, etc. Positive circumstances can cause us to praise God and to reflect on God’s goodness, or they can make us self righteous and proud.
    I also think that there is a tendency for us to have a certain theological “bent” based on our past and current personal circumstances. Although we learn from our personal experiences, we need to be careful about becoming narrow in our thinking, and not considering others. We need to carefully listen to what others have learned in their walk with God. I often feel that our seniors have so much to share about their walk with God over the years – how often do we take the time to listen to them? We need to spend more time looking into what God says to everyone in His Word. Ultimately, our theology should be based on God’s Word, not our circumstances. I have no idea if my response really has anything to with your actual question, but I guess I will post it anyway.

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