the theology god

the theology god cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

Hang a print of this cartoon in your study to remind ourselves to stay humble, to remember that our theology isn’t the thing it is attempting to describe, and that our ideas will always fall short of the Truth.

This isn’t to say that we give up trying to describe. But let’s not think we’ve ever arrived.

Have a great day!

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18 Replies to “the theology god”

  1. This resonates strongly with the concept of a ‘Book of Shadows’, the book of days kept by many pagans.

    The ‘shadows’ referred to are nothing to do with ‘powers of darkness’ or any such BS… it reflects the realisation that the words contained within can only ever be a pale shadow of the reality they represent as our knowledge will always be imperfect.

    It’s a kind of ‘Momento Mori’ for the ego.

  2. For me, “God” (in quotes) should be another chain on the leg. And the arms should not be lifted up but out embracing the world and life around him — open to understanding. Reaching for salvation, reaching for hope, reaching for something seems like the desperation. Why keep reaching for a “God” when you have rightly shared about the silence? Learning to be with our own condition, in healthy community with others without grasping for an abstraction, for a flag, or for something to augment our desperate-YOU seems more healthy to me. Even if this guy did not have a chain or a theology, his needy focus upward seems mistaken — though perhaps a useful position at times.

  3. I love your posts on theology David and this one rings very true for me. To shed some of my old theology and still find God has been a very liberating and fulfilling experience for me.

  4. i’ve learned the task of theology is to answer the questions of the people and put that into a system – it is, so to speak, clotted (experience of) faith.
    now the theologians work is to translate this back into their respective context – to liquefy it again…

  5. Well said. To think we can condense our God into a few words? This Creator of this immense universe chose to come here as a man and give His Life for us, because He loves us? Now there is the wonder. He came from??? to this galaxy amongst billions of galaxies to this globe amongst billions of planets to these people amongst many peoples. Now that’s a God.

  6. I loved this. Out own theology can be a ceiling that stops us from touching God. He is not out theology. He is simply love. Pure, unadulterated love.

  7. Brilliant David, absolutely brilliant.
    Yet another way of saying the Church was never meant to be an end unto itself, but the midwife to ‘life more abundantly.’
    or as they say in Zen, the finger pointing to the moon is not the moon.
    Thank-you

  8. Physh: systematization (of whatever) implies that you can figure it all out. your first comment specifically spoke of answering questions and using using the resulting system to approach the real world. that sounds your you did mean to say that theology is about answering all the question.

    In my view, if theology is systematizing anything, it is how people view god, religion, the metaphysical, etc. It is less a system outlining faith answers than a catalogue of how people have approached the faith-related questions. This is more consistent with an academic approach to theology. It also allows for humility that we don’t have it all figured out.

  9. interesting – never thought like that.
    systematisation to me just means to put thought orderly together and see, how they fit best.
    (btw – i apologise for my inchoate language skills and poor mastering of the english language that i couldn’t make my point clear.)
    now of course theology is to answer questions – because many (if not most) questions already have been there.
    theology collects the questions and the answers – and puts them into a system of thought.
    yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that theology (or systematisation) has all the answers – but quite a lot, i’d say!
    because if it collects all the questions and answers of now 2000 years experience of faith there aren’t too much questions to answer left, are there?
    except maybe those questions which results from technical progress, like i.e. genetical modified food – or when biologically life starts or ends, which has ethical implications.
    so we have a very different understanding of systematisation.
    besides theology is about to rephrase or restate the old answers anew into the changing context.
    it is not (!) about systematising the faith – but the thoughts about!
    are you familiar with the concept of fides qua and fides que creditur – and the fides quaerens intellectum, christine?

  10. Physh: You really think theology provides quite a lot of definitive answers? That there is even a closed list of potential answers? That old questions aren’t even be asked or explored anymore? Why? Because religion has been so perfect for the last 2000 years, getting nothing wrong? We have radically different notions of what constitutes theology.

    What keeps your theology from being exactly that portrayed in the cartoon? Just that you’re confident your version of theology hasn’t gotten anything wrong?

  11. oh – i think i didn’t say: “definitive” answers…
    and also i don’t think that there is a closed list…
    there’s nothing new under the sun; so i just think that most questions already have been asked – and answered.
    a look into the history of thinking, faith and doctrine will show that – it’s helpful to listen to our christian siblings who where before us not to reinvent the wheel.
    plus – i doubt we can add anything new to these old answers.
    we just can reword and rephrase them into our context.
    and we have to do that!
    because people need to hear the gospel contextualised.
    therefor we need to liquify the old answers to the old questions in a new disguise anew.
    and isn’t it arrogant to assume christianity starts with us?
    the history, the church etc.?
    and at the end of the day it’s all about hermeneutics, isn’t it? ;-))

    um – what exactly do you mean by “religion”?
    i understand the critique of karl barth and his notion to play off religion against faith – yet i doubt that modern concepts speak of the same as barth.
    do you assume that it is possible to have “pure” faith – despite the biblical anthropology as we see it affirmed through psychology, sociolology, history etc.?
    we’re all human beings – fallible and unfabulous; therefore we need a frame.
    theology gives a frame.
    it is – so to speak – like the talmud for the torah.
    and in the same way like our jewish siblings never stop to discuss the eternal truths so do we.
    a jewish rabbi after a long discussion once told me:
    “you know, that’s the truth. that’s what it’s like. no doubt. i’m sure.”
    then he hesitated a moment and added: “but do i know if i’m right?”
    and smiled whimsically…
    he gave me an important lesson of theology.
    so theology is a tool.
    nothing else.
    yet a necessary tool.
    it helps to express the faith.
    and it ties up the experiences of faith long before us.
    it’s definitely not g-d!
    more important than being right is to talk about the theology – being in a constant dialogue.
    with g-d – and with fellow christians.
    and with non-christians.
    i think that’ll keep my theology from getting a ball and chain, or even an idol…

    um – does that make sense in english, christine?

  12. Hey, Physh. Maybe I just misunderstood your point. If we don’t know a perspective is correct, I’d be hesitant to call it an answer, but perhaps a theory or idea. Saying something has question and answer sounds fairly definitive to me.

    I do think that there are both new questions and new potential answers to and perspectives on old questions. (I feel like some people are going to start using that “nothing new under the sun” line to deny the existence of everything from iPods to locomotives, and discourage any further research into anything. I don’t think that one line should convince anyone that we can’t discover something new.)

    Furthermore, a look into the history of thinking, faith and doctrine will illustrate very clearly some things that went terribly, terribly wrong. On some thing, we could do much worse that starting over from stratch. Reinvention might bring us a better wheel, in this case. There’s nothing arrogant about trying to learn from past mistakes.

    My comment on religion was simply meant to point out that the church/religion, where theology is developed, has gotten a lot wrong, so doubting and critiquing that theology is valid and important. I carespect your view of theology as a tool, but we should then be careful whether that tools is working well and useful for accomplishing the right things.

    On the cartoon, I think the ball and chain is figuring got the answers, and so keeping one from being open to being wrong and seeing a previously unknown truth. One reaches for something, but presuppositions hold a person back. Constant dialogue would help prevent that, but not necessarily if you are convinced you’ll never find anything new.

  13. hm…
    what makes you judge the decisions of those who strived for the proper translation of the gospel in their context as “went terribly, terribly wrong” – what makes you so bold to assume later generation won’t judge your / our efforts the same way?
    which measure do you use to judge decisions of the past as mistakes?
    yet we need to learn from the past.
    we’re just standing on the shoulders of giants – so before we can judge we need to understand.
    not sure about what you’re talking when talking about “church/religion”…
    are you familiar with hermeneutics, christine?

    and by the way – i see the picture not as critique to theology but to one’s personal, idolised theology which might hinder to encounter the living g-d…

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