Monday, September 1, 2014

New Ideas

Poor Mrs. Dittman. I think this is harder on the religious people.
Such a fixed expectation.
That's what faith is I suppose, an unwillingness to accept new ideas.
Revival # 7
by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

I should hope by now I've at least opened a dialogue about how I feel faith is not static.  I don't believe doubt is bad.  Instead, I feel doubt is beneficial, if not necessary to faith.  Doubt allows us, even requires us, to examine our beliefs.  Without such examination, faith cannot grow and remains stagnant at best.

Likewise, such doubt/faith should bring us to a place where we are willing to explore new ideas.  Of course, this doesn't mean we will accept the new ideas, for many new ideas are just nonsense.  But we should at least explore new ideas, for how can we decide if they are indeed nonsense if we don't give them some thought?

Yet so much of Christianity seems to hinge on abstaining from the exploration of new ideas.  If you want to look at it from a Wednesday Theology perspective, mainstream Christianity often condemns, boycotts, or outright bans instances of popular culture it may disagree with instead of using them as an opportunity to open a dialogue. I believe such a dialogue is important.  Even if we don't accept such new ideas, and often we wouldn't, the dialogue between Christianity and the idea can lead us all into new and exciting places.

The more I think about this and ponder this, the more I have come to view theology as exploration.  Theology is an adventure.  In theology we explore all of time and space.  Theology encompasses everything that ever happened and ever will.  Can there be anything more exciting?  I think we have done something grossly wrong when theology becomes boring lectures and dry, tedious textbooks.

As an example, take this excerpt from N.T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope,
"The mystery of the ascension is of course just that, a mystery.  It demands that we think what is, to many today, almost unthinkable: that when the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time."1
I really think we need to bring "space-time continuum" into the fold of popular theological jargon.  But doesn't that quote just wrinkle your brain?  Doesn't it make you think new thoughts?  Doesn't it make you excited?  Few things in life excite me more than thinking new thoughts that I have never thought before.

Why don't we get excited about theology?  People can get so excited about space and science, but rarely do we observe similar hype about new books or television shows covering theological issues.  Maybe it's because science fiction is so ingrained in our culture as an entertaining way to explore, especially in hypothetical ways, scientific ideas and possibilities that we, as yet, can't actually study.  Maybe if we had similar stories exploring theological ideas we might get a little bit excited about theology, too.

Oh wait.  That already occurs.  Especially, as I hope this blog has shown, in comics books.

What makes theology all the more exciting is that it is folly.  It is an impossible task.  There is an inherent absurdity to finite beings trying to understand the infinite.  I am a mere mortal attempting to define the immortal, everlasting Deity.  But there is more!  So much of the Christian faith is a paradox.  What we confess contradicts not only human nature, but also reality and reason.

I am irredeemable, yet I am redeemed.  I am a saint, yet still a sinner.  The Kingdom of Heaven has come and it is here.  But also it is not yet here.  And of course, perhaps the most mind boggling paradox of all, Christianity believes that the Almighty God became a man.  But wait!  There are more paradoxes wrapped in that paradox, such as the notion that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human.  It doesn't make any sense!  But, theologically, it's the only way it can make sense.

Some of you might be frightened off by this.  Many people like concrete ideas and facts.  They are not comfortable with all this seemingly ambiguous talk about the paradoxical nature of theology.  Can I say something?  For me, this is all very uncomfortable.  It is incredibly terrifying.  But it is also incredibly exciting.

And shouldn't it be terrifying and exciting, this exploration of God and all that there was, there is, and there ever will be?  Shouldn't this be the grandest adventure a person can ever embark upon?  Even though I know that theology is a complete fool's errand?  It's folly.  I can't succeed.  No matter how hard I study and explore, I will not understand God.  I cannot understand God.  The ultimate goal of theology is ultimately elusive.  But just because I can't reach the goal doesn't mean I shouldn't go on the adventure.

Hasn't your father ever told you on a family vacation that getting there is half the fun?

Sometimes getting there is all the fun, especially if you will never reach the destination, at least not in this life.

What I really want to say here, in case you, dear reader, have not picked up on it, is that I am excited about theology.  I often celebrate the fantastic world of comic books, but I also want to emphasize the joy I find in the fantastic world of theology.  I don't think theology is a long, monotone lecture by some old guy telling me what I should believe.  Instead, theology is a wild and often uncomfortable exploration of ideas about God, faith, humanity, and every other possible subject we can and cannot think of!

People sometimes ask me why I studied theology.  Because theology is the adventure of my life.  It will take me to wild, entertaining places.  It will take me to disturbingly frightening places.  It will always be exciting.  Theology will take me closer to a deeper understanding of God, though I know fully well it will never be able to actually take me to that understanding.

And along this adventure I am going to read so many comic books and face so many new ideas.

Will you join me?

1N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 115.

1 comment:

  1. Already joined you years ago. Theology is like a ladder you climb that takes you a little higher every time, but until we are received by God into his kingdom, we never reach the top, but we yearn for the climb!!!