Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Knowing God -- good theology and bad theology

Knowing God causes wonder and awe, wisdom and fear, joy and humility, and above all love. The best theology causes the reader to lapse into praise, or be overcome with shame if warranted, or fall into quiet meditation, or turn our hearts to renew our love of family and neighbor. This is not from any crafty or dishonest manipulation. Instead, the best theology re-speaks the Word of God and again puts us in the presence of God, the same as when the Bible is read rightly.

When theology is seen in this light, much of what is considered theology shows itself as inadequate, like a drink that promises to refresh us but turns out to be sand in our mouths. Some theology prides itself on being logically rigorous. This is good, but it is like taking pride in being grammatically correct. It is good to be grammatically correct, but it is not enough. It is good to be logically rigorous, but it is not enough. The Word of God, rightly spoken, gives life. It quickens the soul, reveals the mind of God, and imprints on us the image of God.

I think much bad theology comes from bad Bible study. The Bible is not, primarily, meant to give us an encyclopedia of facts -- not even an encyclopedia of religious facts. It's meant to communicate God to us. This does not mean that the Bible communicates mere facts about God, but that it communicates the Spirit of God himself. Reading it rightly causes the thoughts of God and the Spirit of God to become part of us. Studying it is a prelude to something better, just like learning the notes of a musical instrument is a prelude to true music.


P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Well put.

I remember a thought that I heard in a class taught by H. George Anderson (google: the guy with the ELCA) who said that good doctrine gives us a window through which to see God. Some (other) doctrine is a hoop we are told to jump through before we can get to God.

Unfortunately, some members of Christian sub-groups present themselves as saying that you must believe OUR theology or OUR doctrine or you won't see God. But, by definition, all theology and doctrine is man made, and therefore, not perfect. And we are not saved by our man-made thoughts.

Reading the Word of God with awe and with humbleness can be transforming.

Weekend Fisher said...

Oh, you've got me struggling to put some more of my thoughts into words. Ever had one of those posts where you stopped writing because you got to the edge not only of your current topic but also of the area where you'd rounded up and organized your thoughts?

Theology -- insofar as it is about God and not us -- can never be OURS anyway ... but that's enough for a comments box.

Good to see you back. Hope everything's going well with you.