tiny-bubble-on-the-side-of-big-bubble theology

21 Sep

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 4.25.08 PM

~ from “The Doctor’s Wife,” Series 6 of Doctor Who

This is us and all our supposed mastery of all things God, isn’t it?


so easy to get lost in the guts of the Tardis...

so easy to get lost in the guts of the Tardis…

Double imputation.
Hypostatic union.
Norma normans non normata.
Ontological Trinity.
All those Omni’s (no way to dodge them):
Penal obedience of Christ.
Passive obedience of Christ.
Recapitulation theory of the atonement.
Simul justis et peccator.
Supralapsarianism and, let us not forget,
                                                   – my personal favorites in the “cool theological terminology” category.

                                                      They’re also killer words for Scrabble: Theologian’s Edition.

It’s all a tiny bubble sticking to the side of the big bubble.
Yes. No! but if it helps, yes!

We think we know so much when it comes to God – or when it comes to life, for that matter.

I find myself cringing just a little bit whenever I hear someone stating in unequivocal terms, “This is what God is like” or “This is not what God is like” or “God would never do this” or “Of course God would do that.” Maybe cringing is the wrong word. Smiling is perhaps more fitting. Smiling at our bold assertions, however well founded we may think they may be from what we observe and deduce from Scripture or from life, because all of our bold talk amounts to little more than kindergartners pontificating on the playground about their theories of adult life, i.e., tiny bubbles on the back of big bubbles.

I suppose the cringe factor increases in direct proportion to the arrogance in the pontificating. David Hayward observes, “Theology is a vicious cycle of our desperate need to understand and control our universe.” I really want to modify “theology” here with “bad” or add “sometimes” or even “often” and take just a bit of the sting out of that. But he does name what drives all of us through much of life: a desperate need to understand and control.

Theology is a perfectly fine way to spend an evening, as long as we recognize our limitations in it and that our most sophisticated efforts at it amount to not much more than describing a tiny, little bubble universe on the side of a big bubble universe…

…and that when that bubble pops, love is what remains.

We know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

(Yeah, Paul said that)

I suppose the most important lesson here is that Rory and Amy didn’t have to understand the technical explanation of how they could be where they were. They were already there. It’s fine to try to put into words what we are experiencing – but how thankful we can be that our experiencing of it isn’t dependent on how well we manage to put words to it. Explanations can enhance our experience, or like explaining a joke, they can tediously ruin it. Especially when we make this or that explanation a prerequisite to the experience itself – or a disqualifier of the validity of your experience if you don’t explain it the way I do, resulting in your expulsion from the Tardis, of course (off to your own cursed tiny bubble universe!).

We would do well to remember that after eleven chapters of the most systematic, detailed theologizing in all of Scripture, Paul ends up on his face, shouting,

“Oh the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past tracing out!
For from him and through him and to him
are all things
both now and forevermore.”

Worship is the ultimate fruit of all truly good theology.
Good theology puts me on my face;
bad theology just puts me in the faces of others.

Good theology will leave me nose in the dirt with Paul –
at best all we can really manage is licking our lips as we kiss the dirt
and sputter out rocks. Or, in other words, havering.

After thirty-seven chapters of theological Bildad/Eliphaz/Zophar/Elihu/Job jargoning, jawing, explaining, extrapolating, and positioning, God finally shows up in the whirlwind (how cool that God’s shows up in whirlwinds!) and speaks with unrelenting bullet-point question after question, leading Job to make the most profound theological statement of all time:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.
    I should never have opened my mouth!
I’ve talked too much, way too much.
    I’m ready to shut up and listen.”


Tiny bubble popped.



Posted by on September 21, 2014 in haverings, theology


Tags: , ,

6 responses to “tiny-bubble-on-the-side-of-big-bubble theology

  1. studentinheels

    September 22, 2014 at 8:30 am

    “Good theology puts me in my face, bad theology puts me in the faces of others.”
    So well put.

  2. wordhaver

    September 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Actually, that would be “Good theology puts me ON my face”…though I suppose we could just as well say it puts us in HIS face… 🙂

  3. studentinheels

    September 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Ah yes! That would be much better.

  4. perkinda

    September 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks Mike. So well put.

  5. wordhaver

    September 23, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you! I did have a bit of fun with this one. 🙂


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