Howard Stone and James Duke in their book How to Think Theologically, make a distinction in two types of Theology: “Embedded Theology” and “Deliberative Theology.”
“Christians learn what faith is all about from countless daily encounters with their Christianity—formal and informal, planned and unplanned. This understanding of faith, disseminated by the church and assimilated by its members in their daily lives, will be called embedded theology. The phrase points to the theology that is deeply in place and at work as we live as Christians in our homes, churches, and the world.
Our embedded theology may seem so natural and feel so comfortable that we carry it within us for years, unquestioned and perhaps even unspoken except when we join in the words of others at worship. We may be secure in the conviction that this is what Christianity is all about and leave it at that.
But occasions arise that require us to think about our embedded theology, to put it into words and then subject it to serious second thought. Frequently it is during crises that people first experience this call to theological reflection”“Deliberative Theology”
“Deliberative reflection questions what had been taken for granted. It inspects a range of alternative understandings in search of that which is most satisfactory and seeks to formulate the meaning of faith as clearly and coherently as possible.
Like Solomon, the theologian wants to take all the testimony and evidence under advisement, press beneath the surface to the heart of the matter, and develop an understanding of the issue that seems capable—at least for the present—of withstanding any further appeal. This is deliberative theological thinking”When I first became a believer, I was suspicious of theologies other than the one that my immediate faith community taught. If someone was not from the right seminary, the right church, or of a particular theological stripe, I dismissed them as either impure or maybe even outright heretical. I only read books from publishers with a “name you can trust.”
Then I went to seminary, where I was encouraged to question my embedded theology, to deliberate and test it against the Scriptures. I learned to hold my theology with a looser grip.
Strangely, some of those same professors from whom I learned this are now telling the evangelical church to not deliberatively reflect on our presupposed theologies. They worry that if Christians embrace the postmodern practice of “deconstruction” then the faith handed down from the apostles will be threatened.
They don’t like it when young Christians embrace the idea to “Question Everything.” Though their motive is to protect people from heresy, they are encouraging a non-deliberative theology.
They do not understand that the goal of deconstruction is not the deconstruction itself. It is the reconstruction of our theology as we attempt to question everything we presume from our embedded theology.
It is this Deliberative Theology that best reflects the Reformation’s slogan of “semper reformanda” – “Always Reforming.”