Friday, June 17, 2011

Theological Humility

Last week, a friend said to me,
"...theological humility is what allows God to challenge and change us."
It immediately dawned on me....this is probably why I didn't change for years. Because a person who already knows everything doesn't need to change and I knew it all. And then this interesting thing called life happened to me. One of the greatest movements in my life over the last 6 years has been the journey towards admitting and being okay with the fact that I might be wrong about certain things and that there are a whole lot of things that I just don't know.

I was once the King of Opinions. I had opinions about things that I was well versed in. I had opinions about things I had no idea about. If we were talking about it, I had an opinion and my opinion was the right one. Period. My opinions didn't stop with thoughts on parenting or marriage or the cats vs. dogs debate. My opinions ran in all directions including theological issues about why God does what he does, who's in and who's out in God's economy, why my way was right and everyone else's way was very wrong and on and on.

Arrogant people can be such asses. So, if you caught the arrogant ass version of me along the way, I am truly sorry.

I am still a work in progress, but I am happy to say that today, things are a little bit different thanks to a number of people who chose to love me through my arrogance. Along the way, I have had good friends tell me that they didn't like me because I knew it all. Co-workers have expressed how much of a delight I was not to work with because of my opinions and ability to trump all others thoughts and ideas with my self perceived better thoughts and ideas. And here I was thinking that I was God's great gift to my little universe. At least, that was my opinion.

Lately, I have been challenged on some of my previous dogmatic stances when it comes to life and theology.

Questions like:

What if people in the far reaching places of the planet never know the person of Jesus before they die nor had the opportunity to hear about the redemptive, restorative plan of this resurrected Jesus?

Why are some people born with passion for the opposite sex while others are born with passion for the same sex? If God controls these things, but then says that one should not have relations with the same sex, doesn't this make God kind of cruel?

Does God actually control all things?

Does God really think that whole 'love your enemies and literally pray for them' thing is going to work?

If God is so good, then why do babies die in their mother's wombs sometimes?

I could list hundreds of these types of questions.

Recently, I was reading my boys a story out of the book of Genesis. We read about a time in which there was famine in the land of Egypt for 7 years for lack of rain and many people were without food. My 6 year old son asked me,

"Dad, people had no food to eat because there was no rain?"

"Yes, son."

"But doesn't God make the rain?"

"Yes, son."

"So, if God loves everybody, then why didn't God just make rain so people could have food and not go hungry?"

Now, here's the deal. Theologically, I think there is an answer to this question and the other questions posed above. Now, for those of you who are concerned at this point, let me reassure you - I believe that Jesus is God's son. I believe that he came to the planet to crush sin, death, evil, tyranny and oppression through dying and ultimately coming back to life. I believe that Jesus is the way to God and restored life. Beyond this, there is a whole lot that I'm just not sure of.

These days, I don't think that theology is enough. Because theology misses the most important part of a person. Theology misses the heart. Theology hits us square in the cranium and for the most part, it stays right there. I could have loaded up my son with all kinds of theological answers, but let's face it - theology will never satisfy the heart of a 6 year old (or 56 year old) who is struggling with why a loving God would intentionally withhold waters from the sky to cause a famine in which people die for lack of food. How do we explain this to our boys who know their sister - whom currently resides in Ethiopia - is in an orphanage with barely enough food to survive the night?

How do we answer that question? Can we answer that question? Should we answer that question?

Or is it okay to let some questions, be just that? Questions. Mysteries. Spaces of tension.

So, how did our conversation end?

"So, Dad, if God loves everybody, then why didn't God just make rain so people could have food and not go hungry?"

"I don't know, son. But I do know that Jesus promises us that no matter what happens to us in life, he will be with us. We might not always feel it or even think it, but I can promise you that Jesus loves us and will be with us through all of it."

And when he gets a little older, I'll give him a little more. At least the little more that I might know. But one thing is for sure....I don't ever want to give him or anyone else just something to satisfy the head. I want to be a person who engages hearts. But in order to be that person, I think we have to first, have our hearts engaged.

How about you? What has your experience been with engaging God with your head vs. your heart?


Laila said...

Great post. I think people feel that letting your emotions or your heart guide you is weak, and that only looking at things from an intellectual perspective gives you answers. I agree that this is a mistake when it comes to being a Christian. If it were easy to understand with your head, what would be the point in putting your faith in God?

Laurie Matherne said...

I enjoyed your thoughts today, Brian. I was (and probably still am) not very likeable in my early adulthood years. I was ZEALOUS for God, but not for people. I thought I loved God, but without love for His people I learned that my love was shallow. Thank God he changes us!

Me! said...

Wow! So true and it scares me that i do not have answers for my kids. I have those same questions... how can i convince them that serving Jesus is the best way to go if i can not answer simple questions of His goodness?

brian jeansonne said...

Me! - For me, this has been about learning how to do that very thing....pointing them to his goodness. His whole life and death and life again personified goodness. So, even though I don't understand a ton of it (and reading the O.T. with my kids is killing me b/c I just don't get so much!)I do see the life of Jesus in the N.T. and keep moving towards and focusing there....

athanasius said...

I agree with what you say, but not exactly how you say it. I don't think we need to give up on the word Theology as you seem to do.

Theology is literally the "study of God". Our study of God should be both thoughtful and heart-felt; personal and historical; reasonable and emotional. You are right that it fails when it becomes a purely academic exercise. It only comes alive in daily experience.