Have you ever overheard two doctors talking to each in medical speak?
Ever had a plumber try to explain to you why this or that fixture/joint is not compatible with this or that coping/fitting?
Ever gone to a ‘do it yourself’ weekend-warrior class at the hardware store, then tried to rewire/retrofit that thing only to make a second trip to the hardware store?
Ever listen to someone in the military tell a story that has so many initials, codewords and acronyms that you get L.O.S.T. in the W.E.e.D.s ?
Every craft/profession has its own vocabulary, short-hand, and set of tools that are specific to that discipline. No one seems to mind this at all. Then there is theology.
When it comes to the theological endeavor, the expectations can change.
My theory is that is has something to do with the reality that everyone – no matter age or education level – has access to spirituality.
So everyone should be able to talk and understand what is going on in theology since everyone participates in its subject.
That is how the thinking seems to go. My desire is to clarify that while it is true that religion/spirituality is the primary activity … the theological endeavor is a secondary reflection upon that primary activity.
Theology is not the thing itself. Theology is a second-tier discipline that reflects upon the primary.
[Side note: I find it helpful to break the theological endeavor into 5 main branches and acknowledge that each has sub-disciplines within that. Practical, Biblical, Historic, Systematic and Philosophic are the Big 5 then.]
Have you ever watched a cooking show where a master chef dazzled you with culinary techniques you would not have thought of if you were given 100 years to experiment?
We love that stuff!
Once in a while some ernest person who loves God and is invested in the life of the church will complain about not understanding something I posted or said. Fair enough.
I know that the gospel is simple enough that a child could get it. I know that the kin-dom is easy enough to enter that there are no limits for economics, education or any other category.
Here is something I would like to add to the conversation: The meat and potatoes – or bread and butter analogy. These two combos are often used to try and say ‘keep it simple’ … but here is the thing:
- If you have ever tried to grow potatoes – it takes a while.
- If you have ever harvested an animal for meat – it gets messy.
- If you have ever made bread – it is complex.
- If you have ever churned butter – it is not easy work.
Also, most of those activities require specialized equipment that had to be fashioned by a master craftsman.
My point is that ‘keeping it simple’ is often the end product of a very labor intensive, messy, complex, and lengthy process.
Simply putting meat, potatoes, bread and butter on a table is no simple undertaking. That meal that is consumed in 15 minutes took hours to prepare and more than a year to cultivate.
While a sermon probably should not contain words like ontology and meta-physics or phrases like post-Derridian phenomenology, it does not mean that those pursuits are wastes of time.
Like people who know nothing about electricity or conductors just want the light to come on when they flip the switch, that seems to be the expectation of theology. You don’t want to watch the electrician work or see how the sausage is made. You want it to work.
You don’t want to be in the kitchen while the chef works – you want a filling and delicious meal.
Let’s just not pretend that meat and potatoes or bread and butter is as simple to deliver as it is to receive and enjoy.
I mentioned all of this in response to the first call on the most recent TNT.
I would also recommend this little pocket dictionary of theological terms – the kindle is $6
February 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm
Reblogged this on Bill Walker | Blog.
February 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm
Sorry I didn’t have a chance to chime in on this one the first time around. I think you have an excellent point here, Bo. And worth bringing up.
I would take your analogy a bit further (maybe) to shine light on my response to it. You’re absolutely right. The gospel is simple enough for a child and accessible by all. But getting meat, potatoes, bread and butter to the table are not easy. Unless….in your head the “process” is going to get them from the store and bringing them home. Then it’s still very simple.
But the theology (or level of theology) you’re talking about is the equivalent of people who discover the beauty of locally sourced produce or, even more so, who have fully embraced the farm to table movement. These people often don’t even consider the grocery store as part of the process.
They also frequently eat more robust, flavorful meals full of robust, flavorful, varying types of meat, potatoes, bread and butter.
It’s a different, more complex process, but also yields, more often than not, a far different result.
Basically, you can take “ontology” and “eschatology” and “post-Derridian” out of a conversation, but you can’t ever boil Process down to “Jesus saves.” Not in a grocery store environment.
March 13, 2014 at 12:03 am
That’s very well put. All that being true, I still regret that I may have too often offended charity by being inattentive to the nature of this or that forum where I contributed in the sense of not being more audience-aware vis a vis accessibility issues. Mea maxima culpa. So, I especially appreciate those who create cyberspace for nerds and offer them nourishment and hospitality. Thanks 🙂
April 1, 2014 at 7:14 pm
Thanks very much for that 🙂 It is my pleasure to do so and I look forward to hearing from you often -Bo