The Very First Rule of Theology


I don't want to write about theology anymore.

The story is tired. My eyebrows are furrowed and my love is frozen like Lake Wobegon in the middle of January. And it's all because my mind has sat through one too many theology classes under fluorescence. And it's because of all those 18th century German theologians, fogging up my mind trying to untangle with their 13-letter words just how Jesus' humanity and divinity really work.

But it's not any professor's fault, and it's not theology's fault. At least not really. Like college students often do, I hit the wall that shattered the way I saw the world. And like some college students, I was angry at the world for not making sense anymore, angrier still for whoever or whatever made it so confusing. Theology is just an easy target: the actual cause is so much more complex, and the solution requiring more wisdom than to stop thinking about it altogether.

Theology is you, me, and dead people thinking about God together. If theology is the cause for crisis, then the solution isn't to stop thinking about God. Could a sunflower stop bending and posturing itself to the sun? Me either. It's not whether but how we'll do theology that counts.

And as far as I care, the very first rule of theology - and all academics, maybe - is that it eventually sounds and smells like actual life. I'll hedge my bets and say eventually. Go ahead and be an academic. Think with precise language. Cross your t's and dot your i's when you use words like authoritarianism and Eutychianism. Cut razor sharp distinctions between everything, and find it all in sociopolitical contexts if it tickles you.

But theology & academics are just instruments in articulating real life, the stuff that happens in between your papers and pet ideas. And if I'm ruthlessly honest, correctly picking apart the narrative structure of Romans has never helped me speak more softly to my wife, nor has it ever caused me to enjoy my middle school kids more. If we travel to distant planets filled with abstract -ologies and -isms, we do it because we actually believe it will color things brighter when we return to sweat & soil.

So I like humanity-divinity debates about Jesus as much as the next schmo, but at day's end I still can't explain the God-sized hole in my heart, and I only need to know that Jesus is God enough to fill it and human enough to understand when I fill it with pulled pork nachos instead. I need to know I can say his name under my breath to acknowledge the Lord of my success, or whisper for mercy like a beggar during my royal mistakes and find it.

And the cornerstone of Christian theology is always Jesus, coming from the haze of heaven to give people fish & bread, stick his fingers in dirt, spit on people's eyes, and hang on splintered lumber... all to rescue creation from the hot mess we've made.

-trev

photo cred: camden mcafee

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