Many people are studying theology, it seems to me, rather than trying to understand- even a little bit- something about God.
Google “theology” and you’ll begin to see how people can get trapped in that bottomless subject: 39 million entries with more being written every day! I’m tempted to list some of the many theologian/bloggers I read frequently , but since they would probably disagree with me on most of the theological minutia they are so fond of over-analyzing, I will forego begging for such confrontations. I would, I admit, probably lose in a debate with any of them, because- I guarantee- I would lose interest long before they ran out of points to be made and verses to be quoted.
Those who believe that their particular sacred writings are the ending point of any discussion about God, love theology. Those who, like me, believe that sacred books are the beginning of knowledge about God, don’t. There is too much to do: there are too many people to see and schmooze with, too many fields to walk in, way too many shores to stand beside, too much about the universe to learn, and way too many children and dogs to play with, to spend more than an hour a month picking over the legalese of Augustine, Calvin, or one of the Niebuhrs.
It appears to me that the study of theology is a pretty ego-centric exercise, anyway. Most people seem (correct me if I’m wrong) to engage in it to 1. Justify their own already preciously owned beliefs, or 2. Exclude others from those same preciously owned beliefs. My attitude toward self-serving, God-belittling theological study is this Emo Phillips joke:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said `Stop! don’t do it!’ `Why shouldn’t I?’ he said. I said, `Well, there’s so much to live for!’ He said, `Like what?’ I said, `Well…are you religious or atheist?’ He said, `Religious.’ I said, `Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?’ He said, `Christian.’ I said, `Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?’ He said, `Protestant.’ I said, `Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?’ He said, `Baptist!’ I said, `Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist church of god or Baptist church of the lord?’ He said, `Baptist church of god!’ I said, `Me too! Are you original Baptist church of god, or are you reformed Baptist church of god?’ He said, `Reformed Baptist church of god!’ I said, `Me too! Are you reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1879, or reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1915?’ He said, `Reformed Baptist church of god, reformation of 1915!’ I said, `Die, heretic scum,’ and pushed him off.
I told that joke in church one Sunday and it was the most responded to part of the day’s sermon- which says something about truth of the joke or the content of my sermons; I’m not sure which!
God is out there, in here, over there; God is near, far, around, through, above, below, and in. We can confine God to the written Word, or to words written about the Word, and easily miss the Word made flesh that dwells among us! We can argue over meaningless nuances in ancient Greek, exegetical exposes of what “is” is in the books of I Corinthians, II Kings, and III John, or whether the book of Revelation has happened, is happening, or will be happening, imminently or a thousand years from now.
Or, we can consider the lilies of the field. (Matthew 6:28)
Or, we can go to the county jail and see Jesus. He said he’d meet us there. (Matthew 25:36) And amazingly (he also said) when we’ve seen him, we’ve seen his Daddy! (John 14:9)
Maybe too simple for some.
5 thoughts on “More God”
I agree with you.
Deepak Chopra’s new book “The Third Jesus” is a must read for all christians.
It shows that the philosophy of Jesus was closer to Hinduism and Bhuddism than to Roman Catholicism and all it’s off shoots.
I agree entirely with your thoughts on the examination of sacred text, but I would also point out that without them, your introduction, relationship, and love affair with God might never have occurred.
Even the criticism of the critics can be a dangerous exercise in righteous indignation. There is a balance. In the end, our tendencies toward pharisaical postures are always dangerously close to the forefront of our engagement in these discourses. We’re human and flawed, as such. Jesus got that.
My suggested read: Lamb – The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
Hahah! You are exactly right- my indignities with nit-pickers are from that same proclivity to nit-pick as theirs! Hopefully, I’m having more fun, though, than many of them seem to be..
Absolutely- my journey began in the scriptures. But it continues now as I discover the always-being-written gospels of others. Including the gospels of the ants, the universe, my dogs, and every person I will have contact with this day.
I agree with your point that many study theology to fulfill some egocentric purpose for the individual. These individuals are missing the entire point of what scripture offers. I believe scripture is the beginning point for anyone to examine and understand the purpose of God, not using the scriptures to fulfill the human purpose of control, manipulation, degradation, etc. These are human ends to a holy means. Your jouney is not unlike that for most of us….to discern between taking scripture out of context for a human purpose or consciously using scripture as a guide to transform ourselves into the sacred love of God and exhibit that towards all others even those who have forsaken us.
Things in general are too simple for some, more than others. Some like Zen, others love baroque. My theology is waaay too simple for some, just as others’ theologies are way too complicated for me.
It’s why I like following Jesus and some choose the path behind Paul.