Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Things We Can't Keep Straight...

People love you the most for the things you hate
And hate you for loving the things you can't keep straight

-Derek Webb, "This Too Shall Be Made Right," The Ringing Bell

Like any discussion of theology we spend a lot of time here drawing lines and arguing and, to be frank, loving each other for the things that we hate (or dislike at least).  There's not a lot to be done about that.  I don't actually have a problem with disagreement, or even with arguments.  They are good and provide an opportunity for us to hash out our own understandings of the world in which we live and our places within it.  But disagreements are only half of the story.  Deconstruction only gets us so far.

When I was a kid I used to take things apart.  I once took my watch apart because I wanted to see how it worked.  That was all well and good, until I tried to re-assemble what I'd disassembled.  That happens to our theology as well...and theology is a little more complicated than a cheap digital watch.

So instead of another question and debate, let's try this.  What is that thing that you can't quite make fit in your theology, but you think should fit?  What is the thing that you love but can't keep straight?

No need to provide a reasoned argument for it.  If you can do that then I guess it wouldn't quite fit the question.  But tell us why you love it, or why you think it should fit, as well as why you think it doesn't.

Nothing is out of bounds.


Tarasview said...

I feel like the way we do communion doesn't really fit for me and I feel like sharing an actual meal with people does fit... but not like the potluck type meal- it is easy to stay rather impersonal with those. Something less social-based and more communion-based.

Ya... I am having a hard time explaining it... I'll think more :)

jon said...

GREAT question!

I want to be an annhialationist (and almost am). (This is the belief that hell is annhialation and not eternal torment. I feel like there are some texts I've got to figure out, and I don't want to do eisegesis (read what I want to find into the text), but it just doesn't compute that eternal torment is a just punishment for four-score and ten years of missing the boat). Truth is I'd rather be a universalist (everyone saved in the end; similar things to sort through biblically in this regard as well).

I also want to be Catholic.

And I feel like the Creator who came incarnate should be knowable to some extent by the study of nature, even if He is only knowable by way of Christ Jesus.

And I want end-times-scenario-players to be so convinced by NT Wright that they repent en masse. And I want to be convinced by NT Wright as well, which is why I'm giving "Surprised by Hope" a go.

That's a start.

But, to address the topic a bit deeper, in all of this I want to try not to repeat every generation's error, which is to so react against the entrenched foibles of Christianity-present that they develop newly entrenched foibles for Christianity-future.

Maybe its inevitable, though. Maybe we always find the theological and practical categories we want to live in.

But even then, if I don't know how the end-times are going to play out, then my counter-attack to Left Behind needs to be a reasoned dose of intellectual humility rather than a new series of books called The Five Rapture Enthusiasts You Won't Meet in Heaven or something reactionary like that.

Great topic Colin. I'm anxious to see what others say.

Dustin Resch said...

Hmm... that's a really hard topic, Colin. At first I couldn't think of anything. Then I realized that there really isn't much of anything in "my theology" that isn't plagued by ambiguities and questions. Seriously... EVERY topic of which I feel deeply convinced is haunted by some rogue elements. I suppose, though, that is not too suprising considering I am only human. I'm learning to hold with conviction some things that I "start with", and then to interpret other things that I am not so sure about in their light and with a good dose of humility. On the other hand, I'm not content to say "Because there is ambiguity, all ideas area equally valid if they appeal to you." Some of the things I am thinking a lot about lately have been the following:

History and Scripture - I am convinced that Scripture is to function authoritatively for the Church but I'm not sure how to read it appropriately. I am especially troubled by the historical rootedness of the texts of Scripture and how the historical context in which Scripture was written/edited deserves to be taken into account when reading it. I'm not satisfied with the post-liberal, liberal, Catholic or evangelical approaches to this problem.

Marriage, Sexuality and Gender - I'm pretty much at a loss on where to go on these topics. I want to maintain that there is theological significance in male/female, that marriage is a sacred institution that is also a public good, and that sexuality is a gift that has been tainted by the fall. Beyond that, I don't have much...

Christology - How does the so-called historical Jesus, the biblical presentations of Christ, the Christology of the Creeds, and the Christ of the subsequent Christian tradition connect with one another? In the end, who is Jesus of Nazareth?

I could go on... and on... and on...

Colin Toffelmire said...

Well, first of all I'm totally on board with pretty much everything you guys have offered. I've actually got a good friend who's an annihilationist (why are there two 'n's in that?) and he's almost convinced me a few times.

I'm all the way there with the communion thing too. You got me thinking, wouldn't it be kind of cool if we had some kind of small meal (like with a small group) once a month where it was a real meal, but it was also explicitly tied to the Eucharist? I think that would be powerful.

And the gender and sexuality thing is a problem for me too. I especially wish that homosexuality wasn't such a hot-button issue for evangelicalism. This one seems to fall particularly well into the category of "people love you the most for the things [or people] you hate." It seems almost like some people would rather you were anti-gay than a strong Trinitarian.

I'm intrigued by Jon's comment about not repeating the mistakes of the past. I guess that's what we're all trying to do. I wonder if it ever works?

Finally, I want to find a way to talk about orthodoxy as something other than an in-grouping/out-grouping tactic. Maybe that's all it is, but I don't think so.

Tarasview said...

ya, I definitely struggle with the "eternity burning in hell" concept... it just seems disproportionately harsh somehow.

You know what? I want homosexuality to not be a big deal. I want it to be ok or I want it to not exist... it seems to me that most evangelicals are trying to deny that someone could actually be "born that way" because then it would seem God isn't fair. But what if they CAN'T "help it"? My son was born with special needs and he can't help some of the things he does... and that isn't fair really, God could just allow something that unfair... but it still seems off to me. Those are real people with real feelings who are not just trying to tick off the church (with the exception of the occasional radical of course). And why does the bible/church talk about sexual sin as though it is so much worse than - say- killing people? Or on a lesser scale killing people's souls with judgement or gossip?

Also? I want a better explanation for suffering etc. than to make me (or someone else) into a better person. Because as far as I can tell the basic teaching is that we grow as a Christian, God puts jewels in our crown which we then proceed to throw at his feet upon arrival in Heaven. After that we pretty much work side by side with the guys who did whatever they wanted their whole life and "converted" on their death bed. Of course I don't have a problem with the "death bed conversions", in fact I am all for them and heartily recommend them... what with my dislike of the burning fires of hell and all... but I just can't see me caring an ounce about how many jewels are in my crown once I get to heaven. Seems off to me.

And I totally want to believe that more paths lead to God. Maybe not ALL paths... but say you are a super devout Muslim and you are passionately and wholeheartedly following God- as you truly believe He is- I want that to count. Because I have a hard time believing that someone born and raised in a completely Muslim society has even a remote chance of recognizing that nature is talking about the Christian God, not the Muslim one. Seems a completely unreasonable expectation to me.

Ya. I'm sure there is more but I'll just stop now :)

オテモヤン said...