Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Flawed Theology

It came to me first from a young guy, a couple years out of college and working with the youth group that I'm also a leader of. Three of us adults were chatting as the group was gathering and I shared that I had recently read a wonderful book. "Blue Like Jazz" is a sweet read. I spoke that the main character, a young minister without a church who has found his way back to college, was broken, beautifully so and quite personally told, but also really in touch with God. The young teacher came back at me with, "Oh, that. His theology is terribly flawed."

Dismissed. Deemed unacceptable. Not worthy of further comment. I should note this young teacher is now at seminary.

Tonight I was chatting with another learned gentleman as we stood outside waiting for youth to arrive. We like to greet them and wave to the parents who mostly wave back. I had absolutely devoured the book "The Shack" on Sunday and, while I saw a few points that I couldn't embrace wholeheartedly, I truly loved the book. So I mentioned it to this guy and got "Heresy" and a shake of the head in response. And he hadn't even read the book.

Not to spoil it for anyone that might pick it up (and this won't), but the guy's problem with the book was that the Holy Spirit is depicted as an Asian woman, albeit a bit of an apparition. He had read this in some review. By his thinking, Jesus mentioned the Holy Spirit as a "he" and therefor the Holy Spirit is male.

I'll say maybe. Perhaps probably. But I don't care.

In the first place, Jerusalem at the time of Christ was male-centric and Jesus may well have been speaking of the Holy Spirit as male simply because that made it easier for his audience to understand. What if He had called the Holy Spirit an "it"? Probably closer to the truth. Doesn't matter.

Truly God and the Holy Trinity are beyond our understanding. It's kind of like insanity - the only people that are insane are those that are certain they aren't. In understanding God, I think the only ones that are certainly wrong are those that think themselves absolutely certainly right. We need to be like kids, in wonder and amazement, in our thinking of God.

As for the book, it's a work of fiction that paints a wonderful picture of the Holy Trinity with perhaps a touch of Buddhist undertones. I've got no issue with that. What I got from it was a better sense of the Trinity working together, a beautiful sense of their individual and triumvirate nature, their love for each of us, individually regardless of our flaws, and a desire on their part to let us know of that love.

Can there be anything wrong with that?

Now I'm feeling guilty for beating on these guys here. I do appreciate the intent both have with teaching others of God, and even more so wish them success, but I still think certainty of much beyond the basics is a dangerous thing. FWIW, I didn't back down in my conversation tonight, clearly stating that I had no issue with the Holy Spirit's feminine depiction, and I guess it came to a draw between us.

Fortunately, some kids came along and we had to say "Hi!" shake hands and wave to the parents as they drove away. It was, actually, a good night.

Oops. Another FWIW: In chatting with our senior pastor some time back he astounded me by saying that as churches grow, they usually start having problems about the time that they open seminaries. I didn't get it at first but his thinking was along the lines of faith needing to be shared personally and, given a lecture hall and all the pomp of teacher to pupil, that can get lost. Not does, but can get lost.

On the Sunday bulletin it notes our pastors by name and title, and I'm paraphrasing here as I don't have it in front of me but it also notes "all the congregation" as "pastoral ministers". Probably got both of those wrong but it really does come down to each of us sharing the word as we can, sharing the sense of God that we feel in our lives so that others may come to a sense of their own.

That comes from sharing the Bible to come to a rational understanding of the history of God. It also comes with sharing your life, your faith, your feeling. Without that, it's just another class. It's a bit different for each of us. That's OK.


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