Friday, August 10, 2018

Rich Theology

Herein lies the rub, and brings us full-circle on the discussion of theology that we've been having this week: we should never be content to simply say that God exists to some degree outside of what we can understand of Him. This is not sufficient to capture the essence of what we cannot fathom, and it leads us into the first theological fallacy presented on Monday, which is that we simply attribute anything and everything to God and therefore are unable to develop a theology of Him at all.

This is far too common even in today's church. We know that there are things about God that we cannot understand, so we just give up trying, throw up our hands, bow our heads, and pray, "Whatever." Whatever, God. Whatever You want, since I can't possibly figure it out. Whatever You're going to do anyway, since I can't know. Whatever You decide, since you're God and I'm not. 

This is no way to believe. In fact, it's impossible to believe this way at all.

It's why we have to labor over that which we cannot understand and develop a full and rich theology even here, even where it does not seem possible to do so. It's why we have to have a firm foundation of God's heart and character and goodness on which to depend, so that, even when we can't know what we don't know, we still have a framework in which to put it. We can confess that we don't know the specifics of how it all works out, but we should never say that we do not know the heart from which it comes. 

And this is not just for God's sake, that we should come to know Him and to be able to articulate even those things that are beyond our fathoming; it is also for our sake. It is an edification to our prayer and a foundation for our faith and an ever-present comfort in times of trouble. 

Take, for example, the kind of imagination that we were talking about yesterday, the kind of spirit that thinks about God even when it does not understand Him in a particular context. Consider a situation in which you have to pray - for healing, perhaps. Or restoration. Or hope. In times such as these, it can be difficult for us to put any real measure of skin on what that might look like. We have our preferences, of course, but something inside of us nags us that the one exact way that we can dream of may not be God's exact way, and we're left wrestling with what it means that God is going to answer us in a way that we may not understand.

Here is where a rich theology is soul-nourishing. For we may not understand or be able to fathom or even be able to dream about what God might do in our situation, we may not have any inkling at all what it's going to look like when He answers us, but if we have a solid foundation of faith that is rooted in His heart, His character, His goodness and glory and holiness as He has revealed it, even in ways that don't make full sense to us, we can begin to imagine what it might look like. 

And we do this by imagining not what it might look like if God were to answer us - no, that is a reflection of a shallow faith whose roots do not go deep enough. Rather, we begin to imagine what it might look like if God were to be God in this situation. What if God shows up, right now, and He's God? What if He comes and acts in perfect accordance with what we know of His heart, His character, His goodness? How does this whole thing play out if God draws near and acts for His sake, rather than particularly ours? 

This is the kind of theology that we need. In good times and bad, this is the theology that draws us close to God. 

We started on Monday looking at three prominent errors of theology: over-attribution, over-intellectualization, and over-familiarity. All three of these are resolved in this, in the mystery of God that exists beyond what we can know but firmly within what we must grasp. All three of these are answered in a rich, vibrant theology that confesses its limitations while grounding itself in its God. All three of these are reined fully in by the kind of faith that knows enough about what it doesn't know to stay in the heart, the character, and the goodness of God. you have a rich theology? What do you know about Him, most particularly in those times when you don't know that you know anything at all? 

(And while you're at it, tell me something you're not thinking about.) 

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