30 December 2005

Implicit and Explicit Theologies - Part II

This post is in response to the discussion on Philocrites about Unitarian Universalist theology ("A religion still seeking definition").

As a religious educator who is familiar with Maria Harris' book Fashion Me a People and the related UU essays on current and future trends in religious education found in The Essex Conversations, I really think we need to look at our "implicit curriculum" if we are serious about theology in our congregations.

Our "implicit" or "hidden" curriculum is very close to the unstated theological assumptions behind the way that Unitarian Universalists currently "do church." While complaining about the lack of theology in UU churches, we overlook the existing "theology" that's currently in use every day in our congregations.

The complaints about modern-day Unitarian Universalism lacking a well-formed and articulated theology may be really be complaints about an explicit theology. To me, this is related to the concept of "explicit curriculum":
"Explicit curriculum refers to what is consciously and intentionally presented. It is the official curriculum, or written curriculum, which gives the basic lesson plan to be followed, including objectives, sequence, and materials, what is taught by the teacher, methods used and the learning outcomes for the student."
Contrast this idea with the concepts of "implict curriculum" and "null curriculum":

"Implicit (hidden) curriculum includes the norms and values of the surrounding society, the setting in which the learning occurs (including the decoration and set-up of the area), and the broader environment in which education occurs."

"Null curriculum consists of what is not taught. Consideration must be given to the reasons behind why things are not included in the explicit curriculum or recognized in examination of the implicit curriculum."
Extending these concepts of "explicit," "implicit," and "null" to our theologies, I think we can find some theological questions. We may find some theological history and even some current-day theology being practiced in how we run our churches.
  1. What topics fall into our "null theology" (topics that we avoid in our pulpits and religious education settings)? What does this "null theology" say about us?
  2. In terms of implicit theology, what is our implicit theology (or theologies) in how we view the nature of god and humanity and the relationship between god and humanity?
  3. As an implicit theology, what is our "ecclesiology"? How do we define who is and isn't a member? How do we decide matters in our governance? Where does authority reside in our tradition?
  4. What is our implicit theology of "soteriology"? Do we even have a theology of salvation in modern-day Unitarian Universalism? What does salvation mean for those Unitarian Universalists who are not Christian and are non-theists?
  5. What is our implicit "missiology"? How do we interact with folks who are currently not in our faith tradition?
  6. What is our implicit "eschatology"? What do expect to find as the "final destiny" or "end state" in our tradition?
  7. Finally, what is our implicit "pneumatology"?
Well ... that's plenty for now. Go discuss.

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