Monday, April 11, 2011
Why theology matters
OK, I can't really prove that theology matters, but I can share how meditating on infinity helped me. Remember those old time preachers who would intone “God loves you so much that he would've died for you even if you were the only one? I think when I first heard this I accepted it with youthful credulity, but later when depressed I made the obvious inference: “Yeah, well, I'm NOT the only one—so what? I 'm still depressed.” Gradually, I thought of the math, and it not only helped, but led me to the theology: if you split 10 million dollars ten ways, you've made ten millionaires! If you split one thousand trillions among a million people, each is a billionaire! But infinity is so large that no piece into which it can be split is even slightly smaller than infinity. So, the assertion by the preacher that I thought was sentimental, even treacly, turns out to be mathematically precise: God already DID die just for me! The infinity of his grace, split among all humans that have ever lived, and ever will, is STILL infinity: all of God, just for me. (Not because there are an infinite number of infinitely insignificant gods, but because the one true God is infinite.) That's why God really is waiting to hear us pray, and is incapable of distraction. It is WE who are distracted, while his eye is upon us, waiting for us to look back at him. A child understands this merely as “God is really big” and if that still works as an adult, fine! But this is for the skeptic or the doubter. This leads to the openness of God. I've read next to nothing about it, but still have my doubts. Everything in Scripture, and even the Greek philosophers speculating about God (see Hermann Bavinck on this), agree that he is infinite. That must mean infinite in wisdom and power and all dimensions of space, including time. “Now his Glory has filled all the Earth. Holy is God the LORD” (Infinity of space followed by infinity of power) And if that's just poetry, it's not very glorious. A self styled “progressive” might admit: “We proud humans just say that to the little god we have invented so he feels good” which is nonsensical and almost blasphemous! And idolatry is blasphemous, although it would be better to think of it as petty and ridiculous, as when Isaiah said: Cut down a tree. Burn half of it for fuel, and worship the rest. I suppose the good motivation behind openness is to make our prayers and actions matter. God has already revealed to us that they do! I supposed if meditating on HOW, and why, they matter in a world with a Sovereign God helps your faith, do it. But there is a lot of vain speculating that doesn't help at all. Yes, most early Pentecostals threw out the wisdom of theology along with the futility, but you and I needn't go in the other direction and forget that every theologian that ever lived once wore diapers, and probably will wear them again if he or she lives long enough! More to the point, we are sinful, and so are our speculations if we think they are even half as important as God's self-revelation through Scripture. Even Karl Barth summed up hundreds of thousands of his own words with a Sunday School song: Jesus Loves Me This is know, for the BIBLE tells me so! Naturally, we need to understand how to interpret and apply Scripture, but with humility, not arrogance and self will. Or a “Progressive” agenda. What is progress if there isn't a timeless standard to measure against? What's next, removing the age limit on elders? You've probably read Webb's “Slaves Women and Homosexuals” in seminary. I haven't finished it, but the first half makes his point pretty well, and it's nothing new, really, just using contemporary hot button examples. End of sermon;-) P.S. You can't talk theology w/o footnotes, right?! Here they are: FOOTNOTE: Think of the universe: if you could split it in half, you could still go on infinitely in that direction. No matter how many 'Halves” you split it into, it still is infinite if you go away from the split. Split again, and it's still infinitely large. There is no measurement you can take where length times width times height would be any smaller than infinity. And, of course, if you travel back towards the imaginary “split” you can go infinitely far into that “half” too. Each half is exactly as large as the whole! Your “Division” of space is imaginary, as is any conception of God that is finite. But our God is real!