Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Science of Theology

I like being scientific about everything. Not that I'm much of a scientist, but I do like working hard to make everything fit a theory - even in my theology. I'll experiment and test things out and try to come up with an idea that explains everything. Even as much as I try to say, "I don't know," I think, deep down, I'm assuming that if I work hard enough, I will know - or at least that someone could know (I guess that's another benefit of eternity: more time).

I think this scientific approach to scripture is pretty typical of evangelicals (even those who don't much like science), because we really need scripture to fit into our explanation of the world and how God works. We don't like having these random bible stories out there that call into question the nice, systematic, theological explanation we just provided. It's difficult for us to take a perspective on the world and then also admit that scripture doesn't always line up with our perspective. We like to write out demons or miracles or the unwarranted death of innocents, because it fits the theory so much better.

I think of the story of Uzzah - he's the guy who died, reaching out to steady the Ark of the Covenant as David tried to move it on a cart (as opposed to the priests with poles method God prescribed). He had all the best intentions in the world - to keep the most sacred object they had from falling in the mud - but he still died, almost entirely to teach David a lesson. The big problem with this story is that it leaves us with some uncomfortable options: either the Ark really did possess such supernatural power in itself that it could kill anyone who touched it, or God was so devoid of grace as to kill a guy for doing his job, with all the best intentions.

There are theologies that explain away the problems here, but none of them really satisfy me very much - nor do they fit well with the overall revelation of God in Christ and our subsequent understanding of it. My natural inclination is to explain it away - which is a fancy way of saying "ignore it." That would help me be scientific, to have a theology that answers all the questions. But maybe the point is that some questions don't have answers and our searching for them is really, sometimes, the problem.

That's not to say we shouldn't work hard to understand God and ourselves and the world in which we live, but maybe we should work less hard on parring that down to an easily digestible theological version of the unified field theory.

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