Theology

 

“Hi, I’m Padre and I’m a theologian.”  It is worthy of a twelve-step programme, the feeling that there is a necessity to analyze, scrutinise, and generally complicate things. And faith is one of those things.

Yes, I am a theologian, and the route there was one which took me through the paths of ecclesiastical history, and historical theology.  So why?  I used to believe (though my certainty of this has much diminished) that in a world largely agnostic, and increasingly atheistic, that there was a need for there to be believers prepared to give answers on the skeptics own turf.  This is well and good, and has some merit.

The problem, as in many enterprises, is getting caught up in your own rhetoric.  I have spoken often about the problem of theo-babble.  The tendency to use specialist jargon when plain speaking will do. My students often ask “why do we need to know the term ‘teleological’ when design will do?”  Their point has validity.  I respond that they “need to know it so they can converse with other specialists.”  So, why?  I am sure most educated people can understand “design.”  Why do we need to discuss “existential manifestations of the charisma?”  It’s the “spiritual gifts!”

Paul was way ahead of us here.  In Colossians 2:2-3 he says  “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (NIV).”  To know Christ, and in so knowing to have the full riches of complete understanding. Wow, how simple.  He continues “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments (verse 4).”

The gospel is simple: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Son of God. Let’s keep it that way.  Feel free to join me at Theologians Anonymous; or better still with God’s people in assembly. That’s where you will find those “treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Padre

K. I. S. S. (Keep it Simple, Saints)

The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh is divided into 3 sections: the Torah (Instructions or Laws), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings). In Judaism the first section, often called the Law of Moses is the most important. It contains the covenant between God and His “chosen people.” It also as the title suggests includes the rules or laws, that make the “legal” agreement of that covenant.

The Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) contains 613 commandments.  Of these 248 are positives (or thou shalts) and 365 negatives (thou shalt nots).

That is a lot of thou shalt-ing, and shalt not-ing.  Most all of these conveniently fall under the umbrella of the 10 commandments of Exodus 20, a far easier list to put into daily practice.

There have always been those who want to do things the hard way, though.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with making sure every “jot and tittle” is in place.  True too is the certainty of  potentially “getting it right,”if you have a firm grasp of what “right” is. The problem come when you make it a law unto itself, to make laws on how to interpret the laws.

As a theologian this is an occupational hazard.  It is easy to get caught up in the words, and loose focus of the Word. Studying the scriptures should be an exercise of faith, not just of the mind.  It should never be an exercise of jurisprudence.

In Matthew 22, the Pharisees challenged Jesus to declare what the greatest of the 613 commands was. They did this to attempt to trap him.  In their legalistic approach to God’s word, they were sure Jesus would “condemn” himself.  His response was immediate and simple:   ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (NIV).” Jesus said these two points sum up the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim as well.  They also reflect the division (and yet unity) of the 10 commandments (rules about God, rules about human relationship.).

Put into practice its easy to “keep it simple.”

Padre

Torah Scrolls.JPG

Torah Scrolls