Broken System - Broken Thinking
Every once in awhile I take down an old systematic theology volume and read for little bit just to remind myself of the way I used to think. It is not so much the content of the thinking, as in Jesus is God and here is why… It is more the idea that thinking must be systematic and construct a little log house made of logic in which every end is tucked into another with nothing out of place. It is the idea, the big fat idea, that Reason dictates logic, and logic is required for describing truth.
The Rev. Al Kirshaw was the rector of Emanuel Church, Newbury Street in Boston when I was in seminary, and I remember hearing him say that theological language is a dead language in our world—and that music is the only language conveying holiness. He was ahead of his time, and certainly far ahead of me. Then again, he was the “Unofficial Chaplain to Jazz.” The Fundamentalist-Evangelical system of thinking still necessitates systematic theology because as irrational as many of its faith claims seem, it is a belief system built upon an extremely rigid matrix of logic. If you believe that the Bible is the direct revelation of God to humankind, and therefore it cannot contain mistakes or contradictions, which is a belief they share exactly with Muslim thinking about the Koran, then one error in logic proceeding from that assumption will undo the whole system. It requires the kind of systematic thinking that would make Aquinas just glow inside.
But modernity has blown that kind of thinking away. Are there 13 dimensions to the universe, an infinite number or zero? Physicists can’t agree. If we do not even know how many dimensions there are, how can the pyramidal universe of Genesis or flat world of Renaissance theology reveal anything other than the imagination of human culture during a moment in history? The problem that modernity creates for such thinking is that the scientific method has totally secularized the culture and cultural ways of thinking. When a team of scientists unveil a new discovery, they do it in a professional journal and expect—they don’t fear it or resist it or deny it, they expect—that their findings will be challenged and debated and confirmed or disproved. Argument and debate are not only expected, they are embraced as means of furthering human knowledge and understanding. Dogmatic and doctrinal thinking neither welcomes nor opens to debate, refinement and change. It pronounces and then attempts to defend and protect itself from any challenge. Silliness, utter silliness in 2010.
Faith is not rational. Religious experience is mystical. Revelation is historic and open to endless interpretation. Nothing about God is proven or replicable or in any way worthy of a systematic argument. Rather, it is worthy of embrace, openness, experiential learning and the shared wisdom of a community engaged in seeking the presence of God in their midst.
So what do you think?
Posted on Jul 13, 2010