ON BEING A 'TRANSFORMATION THEOLOGIAN'
Although Transformation Theology is something which can be quite precisely defined, it is not the case that to be a transformation theologian is to find yourself in opposition to everyone else. It is better described as a new theological orientation than a new theological paradigm. This means that it resonates positively with all kinds of things which are already happening in the theological world. Wherever theology is done in a way that allows the one who does it to be mindful of the relation between thinking theologically and being in the world as a Christian, we can say that theology is open to and grounded in Trinitarian transformation. We are called and commissioned as Christians in the world, by the living Christ who is present there, however unique the form of his presence may be. But if faith is the encounter with Christ in our space and time, as one who shares our space and time, then theology that is within faith needs to take seriously the relation between thinking reflexively about faith and the encounter we have with Christ in faith. This is what we mean by discovering Christ as the present 'material' as well as 'formal' object of theology. This discovery (and it is a discovery) changes the nature of our theology. It necessarily becomes open theology for instance, orientated towards him, according to his transformational power in shared space and time. It is also more deeply ecclesial since it presupposes a shared relation to him, whereby we find that we are called to work more closely with others in constructing new theological resources for the Church. But it is in an important sense more critical too as theology. It is very easy for the academic theologian to think that the world needs to come to us, and needs to be taught by us, whereas in fact we are often located a long way away from the 'crowded' social spaces of conflicting interests in the real world where the Spirit is most transformatively present in people and in society. It is easy for us to forget that thinking and doing are not at all the same thing and that it we are serious about making a difference as theologians in the world, then we need always to consider how best to bridge the gap between the kind of thinking we do as academic theologians and the kind of theology which informs practices in the Church and beyond. Transformation Theology is critical in the sense that it recognizes its own limits as theology, which are probably the limits of most if not all academic theology (and of humanities subjects more generally). Transformation Theology is itself a transforming theology, and only if we allow ourselves to become aware of this limit as theologians (by focusing upon Christ himself as the present material object and ground of our thinking), can we properly work towards building theology with others that can help shape the living Church.
You don't have to call yourself a 'transformation theologian' to work with transformation therefore. You can be a transformation theologian without ever claiming the term. But many of those involved with Transformation Theology do feel that the time is right to give greater prominence to the place of space and time, and of shared space and time, in the theological life of faith. This is not a philosophical theorization of history itself therefore, as the point at which one thing flows into another. It is rather a Christological theologization of that place where human beings 'can make a difference'. As such it is also an invitation to think again about the Holy Spirit who is bound up with the wounded and glorified body of Christ, but is so as the Third Person of the Trinity in the Spirit's own truth, who is made present in history according to the Spirit's own principality. Church itself, as the point at which our bodies converge with Christ's own embodiment, and where we converge with others in him, also comes into view here in a subtly new way. A retrieval of the doctrine of the exalted Christ which has long been redundant, points also to a retrieval of Christ according to his universality, but also to a retrieval of him as present in particularity in the midst of our own 'historical' living. As such, this is also a theological project which is properly ecumenical in that it concerns fundamental Christology. Although it will have diverse ramifications in different denominations, the retrieval of the exalted and universal Christ, in a globalized age, will inevitably engage with new emergent theologies beyond the boundaries of the Christian West, in India, Africa and China.