We’ll step away from theory for a while, and deal with something more concrete – the sources of what we believe.
Our sources of theology deserve the same scrutiny, for many of the same reasons, as our worldviews. The commonly held sources – scripture, tradition, revelation, reason and experience – are impossible to fully separate one from another. Scripture has resulted from reasoned understandings of things revealed to humans – by God, nature or experience – and has been recorded in light of pre-existent traditions that have developed by interpreting previous events.
The original writers of scripture had theological viewpoints that were already enmeshed before the works were written, never mind translated and re-translated. Unfortunately, the translator can never be separated from the resultant translation, and ultimately functions also as interpreter and commentator. Rather than taking on a life of its own, scripture has taken on a life largely under the direction of later interpreters, many times assuming significant characteristics missing from the original.
Tradition has conditioned the writing, translation, interpretation and explication of scripture, as well as having been subsequently developed as a result of what scripture does and doesn’t say. Both scripture and tradition result from reasoning through revelation and experience.
What has resulted are theological soups containing all of the ingredients (sources) in varying amounts, with the predominant dish being the concoction of the most popular or most powerful cook at any given time. The individual cook, who decides the quantities of each ingredient to be used and who brings his/her own tastes into play as the dominant seasoning based on her/his accumulated experiences, traditions and imagination, is the common denominator in all theological recipes. Additionally, the theological chef has a very specific context – he/she is socially, geographically and politically located – and has a predetermined discomfort with the theological view they are deconstructing or reconstructing.