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Friday, March 19, 2010

Theology Through Books

"God caused Columbine to happen. He is Sovereign, so don't think for a minute He wasn't behind this. He has a bigger plan."

It had been a few weeks since the incident. I was at a park not far from the campus attending a benefit concert for the families of those who had lost loved ones in the shooting.

I turned to one of my friends, "You've got to be kidding me. Did he just say that?"

Bad theology leads to very bad things.

Or, at the very least, statements that aren't very helpful. Now, I have a Minor in Bible. I grew up in the church. I was in Awana for a long while. I attended Bible studies and all that. I've been reading my Bible regularly since sometime early on in high school. But I don't have a degree in theology.

So what have I noticed most influenced my views on God and how He interacts with the world?

It wasn't my group leaders, pastors or professors--though I'm sure they were part of it.
It wasn't my friends.
It wasn't my family.
It wasn't reading my Bible--though that foundation, I pray, helps keep me solid.
It wasn't even my experience--though that has tainted some of my views and raised some significant questions.
It wasn't my Bible college texts.

What shaped my theology the most were the biographies we read as part of Sonlight. Why? Because these are real people living their real lives before a real God. Biblical interpretation is one thing, but practical outplay over history is another. And that's why Scripture--as part of that history--is so important to consider as well.

The debate about a woman's role in the church is quickly shown to be shallow when compared to the lives of great female missionaries. The nature of faith is tested in the lives of those who rested solely on God's provision. The goodness of God is pulled into perspective when seen in the light of martyrs. The love of Christ is demonstrated most clearly in the joy of those who find Him.

Yet, like all subjects, I don't have a complete understanding of theology. The pieces I've assembled over time through literature and study are incomplete. I can't help my best friend figure out hope. I can't seem to walk in the path of "the New Man." I don't understand why God would refuse to work through a willing servant to save others.

I wouldn't be surprised if your theology was significantly shaped by the stories you listen to as well. Which is why it is so important to consider what you take in. Read stories from people you'd like to emulate. ...but do more than that too. Strive to hear stories from other sides. Without a little dissension you can't really wrestle with the hard questions.

And wrestle we did in my house.

I'm grateful to my parents--and few professors--who presented the tensions and struggles of theology to me as we read biographies and discussed history. It's an important aspect of humility and a learner's heart.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father

10 comments:

Cotton Blossom said...

Wowie wow, Well said! (Unlike my comment;)

Susan said...

Thats wonderful to hear... I am new to SL and am just starting my journey in homeschooling.I have just started my coming 5 year old Grand Daughter on P3/4 she will wiz through this so we won't have any problem starting K by late fall.

I will also start her older sister this summer. She is in the 4th grade now and we are going to start in core 3/4...Hope to do core 5 for the 6th grade.

We just received our P3/4 and were thrilled.

This will be great!
Susan

Michelle said...

So true, so true!

We just finished reading William Carey, and to quote Cotton Blossom, "wowie wow!"

I was particularly struck by his gentleness and compassion towards Dolly, the wife of his youth in spite of her mental health (or lack thereof). I found myself amazed at the way he loved her and cared for her in the midst of his heavy schedule, refusing to put her in an asylum.

After reading about it, my children and I discussed how difficult that must have been, and how he showed that love is a commitment, not just a feeling.

A great 'living' example of a man living out his faith.

And I would probably have never read it without Sonlight!

~Michelle
PS - I can't wait until the younger two and I read Gladys Aylward later this year - talk about a strong woman!!

Kate said...

While the biographies we read are important, they should not be the main resource from which we derive our theology. The Bible is the Word of God and the Word of God should never be made second on any man's list

Hen Jen said...

wow Luke, such a good point, I love how you phrased this.

I've always loved fiction, specially historical fiction- I know it has shaped me in many ways, I don't think I could have expressed it as well as you did here though.

Angela said...

Great post, Luke.

Luke said...

Cotton, <smile>.

Glad you are enjoying Sonlight thus far, Susan. May you have many more years of growing and learning together <smile>.

Michelle, yes, some very strong characters to learn from <smile>.

Kate, I appreciate your heart, and I agree that the Bible is super important! However, throughout history people have read and interpreted the Bible to mean and say all sorts of things. There were many times in studying for my Bible classes that I would read commentaries that took the same passage of Scripture to say exactly the opposite things... which is problematic, to say the least <smile>. The point that I realized while writing this post was that while Scripture is the sounding-board/foundation for my theology, seeing how people live out their faith--which makes up a huge portion of Scripture as well--is what has shaped my theology and understanding of Scripture. They aren't the main resource, per se, but rather a very effective lens for seeing reality... or starting to, at least <smile>. Out of curiosity, how do you determine the meaning of a highly debated passage of Scripture?

Thanks, Jen and Angela!

~Luke

Kate said...

The Bible never contradicts itself, so when anything difficult comes up, like concurrence, I study the exegesis. Honestly there has never been anything hard to find the truth on, but there has been points where it is difficult for me to accept the truth about a passage whether that is because I am in sin or because I have to change something in my walk with Christ. I also have an excellent pastoral staff, mentors, parents, and I have read the Church Fathers writings. This all helps cultivate my paideia, worldview. I then filter the issue through my biblical worldview. I guess you could say I was taught how to think and because I know how to think biblically I am able to seek to understand - I want to have ears to hear and I pray to have them. Whoever seeks will find.

Angela said...

so...just to stir the pot a bit more...what if the Bible isn't a book of rules at all...but rather a story that we find ourselves in?

Luke said...

Kate, exegesis is a man-directed activity based on our need to interpret passages. Granted, we approach this with humility and seeking wisdom from God--Who gives freely. But it's still us. And good Biblical scholars have argued for centuries about some of these things. I used to have your confidence that I knew the exact Truth of any passage or issue. However, I find the ambiguity of many passages has softened my view a bit (while solidifying it further in others <smile>).

You make my point exactly: I too use the insights and experiences of others to help form my theology and interpretation of Scripture. Nothing like those who have gone before and lived it to help me see how to walk. And, absolutely, we need to go back to the Bible and see if it all checks out. You're right on!

This post started as a musing on how my ideas have formed over the years. I was surprised to realize that it wasn't direct Scripture, but rather stories of those who have lived out Scripture. But then I realized that much of Scripture is stories about people living out faith. The Bible is not a theological treatise... and so theological ideas must be interpreted. I'm with you: May I have ears to hear as well. Amen!

Angela, I would agree that the Bible is not a book of rules... though there are those in there that we'd be wise to heed <smile>.

~Luke


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Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester
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