So I guess one of the things I love about theology is how every once in a while, one of ‘those moments’ comes along. It is hard to explain, but it is probably most like being a kid in math class trying to figure out fractions, or in high school trying to get trigonometry or something. You know, those moments when the clouds separate and there is a near visible beam of light and something like a dove. It clicks or all the pieces line up, and for a moment, the whole world and everything in it makes sense.
These moments were by far the greatest part of math class in school, and people have them with many things at many times throughout their lives. The ones I love the most are while doing theology. It is similar to that feeling in math class, only it is more life directing and exciting than merely knowing how to us a complex set of formulas to solve a problem that only you and the teacher will ever know or care about. Maybe I am a little cynical about my former math career, but the point is to more emphasize how cool these moments are when practicing theology.
I have had a few of these theologically enlightening moments while here in NZ, and the most recent has come via this class I have been taking on the theological method/legacy of Paul. It wasn’t a dramatic, bolt of lightning moment; it was more slowly-evolving; piece by piece, things started to clear up. Mark Strom, the professor who taught the class, purposefully painted large pictures about who Paul was, what his world was like, and the thoughts he was grappling with. One of the first things to hit me was the slight insanity and the sheer size of the task that Paul was chosen to undertake. The guy was crazy. He was trying to convince people that the way the world operated was not just as it appeared to be. He argued that the story they were living was not necessarily as true as they thought, and that Jesus did infact change everything. Pretty bold.
Another thing that has stuck with me over these few months since the lectures ended is the idea that life is what we are doing, and life is indeed what we need to be focusing on. This statement seems quite obvious and maybe even patronizing, but when you actually concentrate on the immensity of life, and the complexity of the world, and what it means to be a part of society with all the relationships that entails, it is not at all a simple statement. There is no way to really simplify what life is or how we are living it.
One thing I belive is that God, and by implication, the Bible and the writings of Paul, is largely concerned with life. That is easy to forget sometimes, especially in the world of theology where ideas about God and interpretations of the Bible are debated and argued about to the point where it can become purely intellectual exercise.
Theology is about life.
In this class, Mark proposed a view of Paul who ‘got this’. A view that made Paul’s writings come alive for me in a way that they have never been. So I suppose that this is an idea I will be working on for quite some time. My life as a theologian will be about helping people see what I see in theology and in God: a potential to make life way better. A potential to help us live in a way that keeps getting better, forever. I think that is pretty awesome!
I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and/or questions.