I came across this paragraph in the introduction to Rick McKinley’s book, This Beautiful Mess. It sums up a lot of what I’ve been thinking for a long time about the methods of theological study which I grew up around, in, and embraced for many years.
“I love studying theology, but I’ve noticed theology has little tolerance for loose ends. As the study of God, it mostly uses human tools like logic and interpretation and systems to define Him and how He works in our lives. Countless brilliant women and men have written penetrating works that help us think more clearly about God. They give us a rich theological heritage, and I encourage you to read them. But be careful. You can study God expertly in His parts and miss Him entirely in His Being. Sometimes I think today’s evangelicals have dissected God, put Him in jars, labelled all His parts, and then breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Whew. Job done,’ they hasp. ‘Now we have no more confusion about God. Now we have a God we can market. At least now we can be excruciatingly confident that “our team” is right.’ As right as body parts in formaldehyde.”
Too often we put God in a box, because he’s so much easier to understand, study, dissect, and tame if he can be contained. We are so confident in our human reason and powers of deduction that we imagine God can be understood by using these enlightened methods alone. So we place limitations on God and say things like, ‘God would never do that,’ or ‘God can’t be like that.’ Just the fact that I call God a ‘he’ shows that I have already placed a boundary around an infinite and vastly unknown God. (But that’s another post . . . )
May we allow God to be beyond our understanding and live content in this great mystery. Yes, read. Yes, study. Yes, seek. But in doing so, be always aware of our human limitations and tendencies and let God be God.