Western evangelical and baptist theologies have largely avoided experience as a source of theology. By not seeing, or not utilizing, lived experience in its own theologies and rejecting it in "contextual" theologies, these traditions have failed to recognize the full presence of God as revealed in the world. Current theological dialogues arising from admittedly contextualized experiences, such as LGBTQI+, Black, or various women’s theologies struggle to find a place at the theological table, because they ring untrue to evangelical and baptist ears. What we are then left with is an idiosyncratic deity who mirrors the community in power.
Theology in Many Voices presents an understanding of theology as a practice of the church, one that both makes space for lived community experience in theological content and also provides the means necessary for encountering, engaging, and incorporating the theological insights of the global and historic church into Western theological discourse. Amy L. Chilton engages the contemporary use of Alasdair MacIntyre’s concept of "practice" in theological method, particularly through the writings of James Wm. McClendon Jr., to show how it can be used as a means of moving beyond the "Scripture vs. experience" divide while still retaining the norming role of Scripture and the essential nature of God’s revelation in context.
Two other figures illuminate Chilton’s vision of experience-oriented theology, giving fuller voice to the church’s witness of faith and practice: the Roman Catholic Jon Sobrino, whose work with the Salvadoran poor influenced his Christology through his "Christo-praxic" method, and Muriel Lester, whose communal living practices influenced her theology of peace and ability to move across religious boundaries and showed how to do theology as practice intercontextually. Finally, whereas the methodological use of practice has found few inroads to Christian doctrine, Chilton explores the doctrines of the Trinity and theological anthropology in light of the practiced contributions of the church global, especially women and the marginalized.
Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Theology as Practice 2. John Sobrino: Theology Practiced throughout the Realidad Historica 3. Practicing across Divides: Theology as Learning a Second First Language 4. Muriel Lester: Practitioner of Intercontextual Theology as Practice 5. God as Trinity: Women’s Relational Theologies and the Triune God 6. A Fleshly Theology of Humanity: Women’s Bodies as the Body of Christ Conclusion
Amy L. Chilton is a native of the Pacific Northwest and completed her MDiv at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Seattle Campus. She then earned her PhD in systematic theology and philosophy. She is a clergywoman for the American Baptist Churches and is the Senior Minister of Phillips Memorial Baptist Church in Cranston, Rhode Island.
This deeply important book makes clear that Amy Chilton is one of the most exciting younger voices in theology today, whether among Baptists or in the wider Christian church. She draws richly upon her own practice and experience to argue convincingly that systematic theology must be shaped by engagement in practice and reflection on it. With acute critique of some contemporary Baptist theologies, she envisages a trinitarian theology in which our knowledge of relations in God must derive from participation in the widest scope of human relations, crossing boundaries of gender, culture, sexuality, and religion. Keeping the reader's interest with an attractive style of writing and commenting on theological practice in both nonconformist and Catholic churches, this is a book which is essential reading for all those concerned for the renewal of theology in the present age.
~Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford
The three main lessons to be learned from Amy Chilton's profound analysis and constructive proposal are simple and profound, namely that theology cannot be done without practice, neither without context nor without community. Facilitating a dynamic theological dialogue with a leading late American baptist and a Spanish-born Salvadorian Jesuit liberationist, the author brings to the task rich philosophical, theological, and ‘common sense’ insights and intuitions. While critically navigating her path in the market of diverse theological and ecclesiastical programs, Amy never fails to practice hospitality and inclusion. This is truly Theology in Many Voices.
~Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary and Docent of Ecumenics, University of Helsinki
In this thoughtful analysis, Amy Chilton overcomes the supposed gulf between abstract doctrine and lived experience by showing how the reality of our lives and practice inevitably shapes all theological thought. Her work opens space for a range of voices from around the globe and deserves the attention of all—even if they disagree—who labor to help faith seek understanding.
~Elizabeth Newman, Adjunct Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School