Theology is a Hoot

godsheroesTheology literally means the study of God. Although almost all spiritual thinkers of all persuasions conclude that a human is unable to comprehend God, we press on.

The somber study of that which cannot be comprehended is hilarious to me. Theology is a hoot and if you don’t approach it this way, it can have tragic consequences. How many “heretics” were burned because they did not hold the theological position that Jesus was the same substance as the Father? (Whatever that actually means)

I think Lao Tzu, the Chinese sage who wrote the Tao Te Ching, had the right idea: “If you feel as though you really need a name, then call it the wonderwork, and watch one miracle talk to another in a language that you can feel but not understand. It is playful to approach something that is logically unknowable.” So go ahead and study the Incomprehensible, but be prepared to laugh at yourself now and then.

The playful Lao Tzu lived perhaps 600 years before Christ, perhaps he claimed an inability to comprehend because society had not advanced enough yet? But the Apostle Paul said something similar, though in less poetic language: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Yet we seem determined to search and trace, splitting hairs into smaller and smaller fragments under our theological microscopes, emphasizing correct knowledge at the expense of actual spiritual life. As Jesus said to the hair-splitters of his day, “”You blind guides; you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

We Americans think God should fit into a box we built and labeled Systematic Theology. Then we set out the building blocks of Systematic Theologies in a buffet line and take a little Predestination with a side order of Panentheism and some politics for desert.

When Europeans got in their boats and set out to exploit heathen lands, they sometimes concluded that the natives they found there had no religion. They were predisposed to confine any religion natives might have to the bottom rung of the religious evolutionary ladder, just as they were predisposed to confine the natives them selves to the bottom rung of the human evolutionary ladder.

This linear view of Progress claimed that the Europeans and the European theologies were, of course, at the top of the imaginary ladder, which is why the natives must inevitably give way. It was just a natural, survival-of-the-fittest thing. This attitude is also a hoot when you consider that European settlers, with access to the same resources as the natives, simply sat there and starved to death if the natives did not help them.

What the natives did not understand when questioned about their spiritual beliefs is how those beliefs could be separated from their daily life. They had no systematic theology, you see. Their beliefs were their life, not rituals performed once a week, or a list of mental positions to which they should give assent.

I continue to study theology, which is comprehensible since it is merely a human invention. I do not expect theologians to break through to enlightenment. I expect mystics to do this, since they are not hampered by trying to stuff the Infinite into a box. I expect little children to do this, because they “watch one miracle talk to another in a language that you can feel but not understand.” Have you ever watched a baby put their hand in a stream of water from the faucet? The water is a thing, but when he grabs it, his hand goes right through! That does not happen when he grabs a chair. What a wonderwork this water is! Little children spend their days amidst wonderworks; inchworms, clouds, a cat that makes an awesome noise when you pull its tail.

The over-stuffy may think all this wishy-washy, uncertain approach to God is foolishness. Children cannot teach us about God! If they could, why spend years and lots of money pursuing a degree in theology? Good question and the answer is: so that the rest of the over-stuffy have an authority to quote. Not only can children teach us about God, they, and the occasional adults who can retain their child-likeness are the only ones who can. On what authority am I making this outrageous statement? How about Jesus?

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This was in response to his disciples asking “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Scribes? Teachers of the Law? The High Priest? The Theologians? Them selves, perhaps?

None of the above. In fact, unless they changed and became like little children, they not only would not be greatest in the kingdom of God, they would never enter at all.

“It is the child that sees the primordial secret of Nature and it is the child of ourselves we return to. The child within us is simple and daring enough to live the secret.”-Lao Tzu


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