Anyone Can Do Theology

Spoiler alert! Don’t read this if you don’t want to know how the movie Ratatouille ends!

I like the movie Ratatouille. It’s a Pixar-Disney film about a rat who becomes a chef in Paris. The on-going theme in the movie is based on the title of a book called Anyone Can Cook. Paris’s top food critic Anton Ego won’t believe that anyone can cook, so he gives the book and its author very bad reviews. Things happen – comedy, friendships, love interest, some pretty cool jazz, and yes a cooking rat. And at the end of the movie, when the critic discovers that the food he has enjoyed – a simple ordinary meal like ratatouille – was cooked by a rat, the critic is humbled. His review in next day’s paper includes the incredible decision, “Not anyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere” (Ego’s speech, Ratatouille, 2007). At the end of the movie, in part due to this discovery, we witness a transformation in Ego’s life. He ceases being the judgemental person locked away in a coffin-shaped room, but rather becomes a lover of life, happy to dine on food cooked by a rat.

What’s this got to do with Jesus, God and that?

At college, we are learning about contextual theology. Which simply means learning how to talk about God together, where we physically are, taking into account each person’s life experiences. Theology is not just for the man tucked away with library of books who only comes out to impart his learning to us on Sunday. Theology is for the mum of three trying to figure out how to do this week’s shopping with £15. God, help me feed my kids. Theology is for the young person trying to fit in. OMG, I don’t want to wear that, but if I don’t, what will the others think?  Theology is for the older man trying to make sense of how the world has changed in his lifetime. My Lord, things sure have changed.

This may seem weird or even a bit blasphemous to ‘churched’ folks, but each in their own way is doing theology. They are talking about God, seeking answers for what is happening in their lives or in the world around them. (Read Let’s Do Theology by Green to find out more about contextual theology.)

What I’m learning at college is how to get these people to talk about God together, to form a community of God “talker-abouters” who will then act upon what they discover as they talk. Because “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 NIV).

Sometimes it’s in the unexpected and even plain that our ideas about God are challenged. Sometimes it’s in the very thing we don’t want to consider that God speaks to us the most.  Just ask Peter about his vision of food (Acts 10). Does God love the people Peter grew up believing were not accepted by God? Will God’s grace and mercy extend so far as to reach even ‘those people’? Can they also have an encounter with Jesus that will change them? God’s answer was yes.

However, the character Ego’s view is limited. His search is for greatness. When we in the church talk about God, we aren’t looking to lift anyone up to superstar greatness. Our superstar is Jesus.

Jesus is the one lifted to greatness. Happily for us, He loves to share His greatness to bring forth the greatness in each of us. We get to enjoy His “good cooking”, and like Ego, we get taken from death and born into new life, into new ways of thinking which then affect who we are. And for the Christian, this discovery of God’s greatness happens in community with others who are feeding on Christ’s good cooking.

That discovery together of who God is and how He wants to relate to us – that’s contextual theology.  (At least that’s my understanding after four weeks of classes…)

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