I knew when I encountered the word “locutionary” in the latest theology book I’m reading I had bitten off more than I can chew. Contrary to what Kathy Laytham says, I am really not very smart. I learned very late in life how to think for myself. In that respect, my daughter is way ahead of me as she seems to know everything about the world at the age of 8. But there is something so alluring about reading intelligent articulation of faith, theology, and culture. At Wheaton, I spent hours sitting in the dining hall with friends unpacking theology and its significance. With the explosion of the blogging enterprise, I am now afforded the opportunity to engage for hours on end with theology professors, authors, and pastors via the world wide web. I simultaneously scorn and crave controversies that go viral online. Rob Bell’s accused heresy fed my addictions temporarily. For my next fix I look to Mark Driscoll – he never fails to deliver. Sometimes I will attempt to squeeze in one more blog post from Mason Slater before I feed my children. It is that bad. I am reminded of Monica opening wedding presents without Chandler (OMG, am I REALLY referencing Friends, how last decade am I?), “Joey, I’m out of control!”
Turns out your online life eventually bleeds into your offline life. If you read enough blog posts “pushing back” at another blog post, you learn to push back in real life. I’ve struggled with this problem for quite a while. In seminary we were taught to think critically about our faith. For one of our finals we had to criticize the theology in Veggie Tales. What in the world? Who does that? It’s Veggie Tales, Saturday morning fun, Sunday morning values! I wrote, “Veggie Tales does a great job of teaching children Christian ethics” and I got a C. So it’s really no surprise that by the time I came out the other end of the theological training system, I can no longer listen to a sermon, go through a Bible Study, or even watch a darn Christian cartoon without ripping it to shreds. Uh, I mean, critically evaluate the presuppositions and rearrange the epistemological framework of the underlying assumptions attributing to the consequent praxis. If you didn’t understand that last sentence, yeah neither did I. And the only reason I even knew those words was because I was forced to use them in my education and I was obsessed with beating my husband with my grades. (That is really sad, I know.)
My main problem is that I can’t seem to undo the damage. I can’t unlearn what I have learned. Also, did I mention it is addicting? Do you know how satisfying it feels to actually look up the word “locutionary”, learn what it means as applied to biblical hermeneutics, understand it, and explain it to your husband to show off your intellectual prowess? (In case anyone is curious, he’s not normally as impressed as I’d like him to be.)
I actually intended this post to be a serious one about conjoining theology and ethics but it’s late at night and slight delirium is leading me to derail from my original purpose. The point is, in case anyone is still reading this post, the allure of theological musings can sometimes mar one’s character, which results in some serious irony as the study of a Good and Loving God should lead one to love more fully, not think more critically. I don’t remember a word from my undergraduate commencement message (probably because my future in-laws were there and I was more concerned about impressing them) but I still remember the sermon Dr. Richard Mouw spoke at our graduation from Fuller. He said Christian education is about the head – thinking critically, the heart – loving, and the hand – doing the work of God. Then he said the most important of the three is the heart. (note he says it much more eloquently than my paraphrase here, that is why he is the president of an academic institution and I’m just rambling in cyberspace with questionable use of parenthesis.)
I went to seminary because I love God and I wanted to serve people. Thanks Dr. Mouw for reminding us all that living a rational and robust faith means loving with abandon. As much as I believe in thoughtful engagement with culture and not divorcing our intellect from our faith, I hope they contribute instead of detract from our character as followers of Christ. That our theological debates lead us to greater humility, generous charity, and sacrificial love.