The beauty of theology

Ever miss academic theology? There is a rightness about grounding theology in the messy business of ministry, in experience and the mundane, the unspectacular and the spectacular, the routine and the unexpected.

It is a tonic, nevertheless, to read Ben Myers' new book on the theology of Rowan Williams. "Christ the Stranger." I pick up this book like I might snack on chocolate - it is delicious and engagingly written. His sentences are beautifully crafted and although his is a commentary on the theology of Rowan Williams' whose theology is often a commentary on Barth or MacKinnon or Augustine or a great poet or playwright, Myers' words become theology in themselves as he summarises Williams so adeptly and exquisitely.

Take this, for example, which becomes a perfect apologetic for having a passion for theology:

...if Christ is a wound then theology is a sort of therapeutics of Christian identity, an attempt to unmask our fantasies and expose us to reality. Theology....is not really about ideas but about life. Through Christ's resurrection, the reality of God has become woven into the fabric of human experience. God is what fractures our identity, and God is the new coherence of our stories. To perform this coherence, to make God's reality legible in the embodied pattern of our lives, is what it means to speak of God. Simply put, 'to live the forgiven life wholeheartedly is... to speak of God.' When Milton's Adam awakens for the first time in paradise, he looks about him and erupts into bewildered praise:
Tell me, how may I know him, how adore,
From whom I have that thus I move and live,
And feel that I am happier than I know.

Adam is shocked into speech. And that is what theology is like: a shock of awareness, a stunned stammering as we awaken to the surprising advent of the second Adam, the Word, God's own startling speech in our world.


Timothy Parker said...

as nice as the wording goes,in both review and the book, and as interesting as all these metaphors are...and if metaphors are like lenses through which to view reality...the problem is which metaphor..because to go on piling up one illustrative metaphor after another is to give shifting or linguistic topsy-turvyness or vertifo, and the inability to sharply focus on what might be a central or defining metaphor. eh?

Rachel Marszalek said...

but the idea of Jesus as God's speech works, do you not think?

Timothy Parker said...

I am not sure what the 'model' is here; rather there is depicted unconnected ideas for , to introduce another one of mine, i thought we were, in the sight of God, 'dumb' animals, like sheep...and so on with the potentially unrelated reams or streams of metaphors at odds with one another and what you depict. How can we reign in verbosity if i am not to add to it? ....The word 'legible' implies readability but Christianity is not a system of signs to be read as in the reading of the work of a story-teller, for Christ is inmimical to that, too unique for his reduction to what appears in this book to be like a higher form of sophisticated literary study. MOre than a story-teller. How simple it would be if life were a drama say in 5 acts or whatever ( as Kevin Vanhoozer has.....) in which case revelation would be normalised or regularised and assimilatible as in the process one undergoes commonly in the reading of a book or in this case, a play. If I may add there is within a sphere of Anglicanism were , if I may say so, writing (italics) - the other side of the coin of reading - has got a bit out of hand. And this seems to be akin to the unfortunate effect of a kind of 'paper-war' of words whereby opponents are slated or unmasked as the human battle of ideas in the published world sphere eg. the copious writings of Bishop N T Wright(UK). This is a point that might be of interest to blog about too and consists of the problem in the world of Christian apologetics , and the slaying of paper ideas instead of the 'elephant' in the room we ought to be acknowledging.

Saying Grace said...

yes, the notion of Jesus as God's speech works. The rest of the quote is filled with abstraction and theological cliche that needs to be rendered in plain speech that actually mimics the particularly of the incarnation of the Word of God.

Rachel Marszalek said...

You should perhaps take a shot at that then - 'Saying Grace.' I spent a while with "The Humanity of God" by Barth once, attempting to do the same thing but I gave up in the end and decided instead to let the language settle with me.

Timothy Parker said...

I don't want to run counter to this thread, but this blog essay might be of interest, 'The Function of the Words of Institution in the Celebration of the Lord's Supper by Ros Clarke' at http://www.theologian.org.uk/church/wordsofinstitution.html, this is well beyond my competence to appreciate or assess. I venture to hold that words or signs point, if they have any meaning, not to a reality in themselves but to a reality independent and beyond themselves in a critical realist fashion. (Nominalism versus realism stuff) Only then do they serve their true purpose and if they are to have any purchase on reality. So often in the Western mind is for the word or sign to usurp or supplant the very reality over us and for us.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions