Thursday, January 8, 2009

Theology of Educated Ignorance

Everything spiritual in my life has suddenly become difficult to explain. Concepts I once debated for hours are now muddled in faulty vocabulary. This has primarily come to light recently as I visited with family and friends over the Christmas holiday and they asked me questions about my seminary experience. I'm never quite sure how to respond to questions about my school and how it has shaped my faith. It is confusing for me to be unable to explain the things I am learning and how I am growing, but I am trying to embrace this confusion.

I'm beginning to call this confusion the "Theology of Educated Ignorance." I'm realizing that as I learn to speak about and for God, the truth is that no language can ever really capture who God is. All language will fall far short of illuminating the truth of the God of the universe. This should not cause us to stop trying to speak on behalf of God, but we must humbly realize that, as Peter Rollins speaks of, any discourse on God will be exactly that...a 'dis-course'. Speaking of God will naturally take us 'off the course' of who God is because our brains are incapable of truly seeing God's face, hearing God's voice, and understanding God's mind. No wonder the Hebrew people asked Moses to cover his face upon return from Sinai. No wonder Moses only glances at the back of God as God passes by. An encounter with God is far more than we are capable of enduring. Proper theology embraces the ambivalence between knowing God, but all the more knowing that there is knowledge we cannot know, a theology of educated ignorance.

Peter Rollins speaks of this idea, in "How (Not) to Speak of God", when he speaks of all Christians needing to be 'a/theists'. Of course we are 'theists' insomuch as we believe in and worship God, but we are 'atheists' in humbly admitting that every breath we utter about God falls short of capturing who God is. This is a refreshing thought for me personally because it removes the pressure of needing an answer for every theological question. There is so much I will never know and this ignorance in no way lessens my faith, but actually strengthens it through doubt, question, mystery, and wonder.

1 comment:

  1. with grace.

    some times when I feel the need to express what I feel to be a conversational token of worth, I have to remind myself the really unless asked my opinion means little. the grace that i listen to others with counts more. the questions i ask that lead them to ask questions or seek more understanding is worth more than my half formed ideas. I agree sometimes expressing where we are in faith is difficult at best, inexpressible more often. God doesn't need more mouthpieces in this world. He does need more hands to do his work, and more hearts that pour out his love.

    People know more about God when I never bring him up, but when I am caring and loving them.

    Jesus never worried about theology. He worked at getting us back to where God had originally intended us to be. In communion with him. I stopped trying to explain God in words around the time I got into a big argument in my freshman year at college about whether God is Love and whether that means you can see God... ahhh those days.

    The older I get, the less I know, and the more comfortable I am with that.