Monday, August 17, 2009

Everybody's Doing It (Theology, That Is)

Few things mystify like telling others that you like theology. I mean, who does that? Theology can seem like one of the most abstract and irrelevant pursuits around. It conjures up visions of monks and philosophers doing calligraphy and asking stuffy questions like, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” If words like aseity, supralapsarian and imputation mean little to you, well, they don't mean a whole lot to many other people either. But the fact is, however you talk about it, everyone is doing theology, including you.

So, let's just say that theology means the study of God. Perhaps you've never spent any sort of concerted or formal time studying theology, the fact is every day you are living out your beliefs concerning God. It could be saying, “God doesn't care if I (fill in the blank).” It could be the popular arguing point, “The God I believe in would never do that!” It might be the refrain of the prosperity movement, “God wants you to be able to pay your bills.” Whether formally or informally, somewhere along the line we all end up with our beliefs on God and we live those out everyday. The question then becomes, “Where did you get your beliefs?”

This question humbled me one particular day several years ago. In a discussion with a more mature believer, I voiced some claim about angels (my memory has mercifully blotted out the specific claim). Though he did not call me on it, as I reflected on the discussion I realized I had basically lifted that idea from the movie Dogma. It wasn't a result of any philosophical or biblical reflection, it was just some mental debris mined from the depths of a movie about renegade angels wreaking comedic havoc in the world. The other person graciously gave me some good counsel and let the issue run its course from there, perhaps realizing that my poor theology (well, I guess that's angelology, but let's not be sticklers here) would wither and go away on its own.

The scary thing is just how many such beliefs exist out there. Probably a vast majority of the country could quote “Thou shalt not judge” or “God is love” though they've never read the books those quotes are found in. Many people could resonate with “love your neighbor as yourself,” but few of those people realize just how high that standard is (and furthermore what we're supposed to do once we fall short of it). “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” might be famous, but it's largely not believed. We find that large amounts of our spiritual beliefs are not actively pursued through reading or serious thinking, rather they are passively received from billboards (Got Jesus?), bumper stickers (God is too big to fit into one religion), television shows (Touched By An Angel) and movies (more than I feel like listing). And this is what we rest eternity upon.

Everybody is doing theology, but not a whole lot of people are doing it well. That's not to say, “Oooh, look at me and my perfect theology.” But the fact is, people base their lives on what they think about God. This is true for everyone from the unaccountable atheist to the ambiguous agnostic to the driven zealot, and a lot of these beliefs are as thoughtless as my Dogma moment. People generally don't vote for people they know nothing about. Nor do they work for companies they know nothing about. So why would anyone live life based on theology they know nothing about?

1 comment:

  1. Jason, thanks for your thoughtful and helpful posts. I look forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete