Sunday, December 27, 2009

Of Maps and Theology - 2

When I read the Gospels, I notice that Jesus wasn't real big on the theology of the day. In fact, his harshest words were to those who put theology ahead of relationship, who used doctrine to exclude and persecute. The Pharisees had their theology down pat...and because of that they missed the truth that was right in their midst. They "searched the scriptures to find eternal life but they would not go to Jesus"

Saul, before he was Paul, was content to be driven by the doctrines of the the point he played a part not only in the persecution of Christians, but also in the murder of Stephen....and perhaps others.

Jesus promised that when he went away, the comforter would come...and that the comforter would lead us into all truth. He declared that his sheep knew the voice of the real shepherd and another they would not follow. Sounds like a relationship to experience...a personal encounter with the creator and sustainer of the universe. I don't think that relationship can be reduced to a map...a set of doctrines guaranteed to get you where you want to go.

This reminds me of the story of how Jesus, after his resurrection, met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They knew the theology, yet it was through a direct encounter with the risen Lord that he "he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." And I don't think it was the theology lesson Jesus gave them that caused "their hearts to burn within them." I think it was the personal experience of spending time with Jesus, the companionship, the relationship, the sharing of a meal...the fact that "he talked to them on the road" as they walked and "opened to them the Scriptures."

CS Lewis makes the point that theology is the map" based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God" and that our "thrills or pious feelings" are somehow second rate...."very elementary and very confused." But if God is really interested in us emulating the experiences of others rather than following his indwelling spirit, why the encounter between Jesus and Peter? Peter asked about John's future spiritual journey.

"Lord, and what shall this man do?"

And what did Jesus say? Pretty much; mind your own business.

"What's that to you? YOU follow me."

Theology might help us figure out what it is we believe at a particular point in the journey (sometimes by so glaringly revealing what we don't believe) In the long run, though, I have to "sit at the feet of Jesus" and allow him to open my mind to understand the Scriptures.

And about that map...the one of the Atlantic Ocean. The one that contains the wisdom of so many others? Well, thanks but no thanks. When it comes to learning about oceans and such, I think I will do my learning on the beach, waves flapping against the shore, ocean mist spraying my face, wind whipping through my hair, sand between my toes. Learning by experience, not by hearsay.

beach 3

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