Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Do-it-Yourself Faith...

     I was chatting up a new coworker, and I worked in a reference to my church and the attached Christian
If you could, wouldn't that make you God?
school;  there was that regrettably familiar awkward silence in response, so I took a deep breath and asked if she attended anywhere.  She mentioned she had frequented a local Unitarian fellowship, but had trouble fitting their service times into her schedule.  She then jokingly realised how that sounded, but freely admitted that religion didn't place very high in her priorities.  But there was one attraction at the U.U. gathering that still appealed, a class that she said is pretty standard across other gatherings and one she hoped to attend with her boyfriend (who has a Baptist background!):  "Build your own Theology".  Of course, the irony of this title didn't sink in until later;  I instead closed the conversation with the importance of religion in our nation's history.
     So think about it for a second:  like most compound words, theology is not difficult to understand.  "Theo" means God, and "logy" is taken from the Greek logos, literally meaning "a word on" but also to be understood as "study/science of".  We use words with the "logy" ending every day, so my question is:
"Can you build your own science?"
     Now obviously in some sense, the answer is "yes";  in a new field or in an age of infant scholarship, an individual and their work can be so groundbreaking and formative that they are dubbed "the father of history" (Herotodus) or "the father of geometry" (Ptolemy).  But neither of these conditions apply to theology;  I would likely challenge someone to think of a new field (outside of computers or technical science) that humanity hasn't explored.  So it didn't didn't take long to mentally work through the implications if we did presume to create our own "logy"...
    Scientific studies show this guy's really quite friendly!
  • We could build our own zoology, and decide that black widows aren't poisonous or that Bengal tigers aren't carnivorous.

  • We could build our own astronomy and discover that the moon really is made of green cheese, or reinforce the belief that the position of the stars determines whether or not you're going to win the lottery today.

  • We could build our own geology and declare that the gravel in my driveway is gold, then drag a sack of it down to the local jeweler and try and sell if for $300 an ounce.

   Now any of these attempts would be shot down immediately... they're ridiculous!  Why?  Because there's an established body of knowledge in those fields that contradicts these ideas.  It's exactly the same in theology:  if you treat the Bible as the foundation for our knowledge of God, you will quickly find yourself coming to the conclusions of orthodox, historic Christianity.  The only way you can build your own theology is to jettison the Bible completely as source material, or even worse, treat it as one of many sources to be selectively chosen from or consulted.
     The whole point of true science is that it doesn't determine truth... it uncovers truth by observation, inquiry and examination.  Theology is no different;  God has declared what is true in His Word... we discover it through patient study, consideration of context and acknowledgement of the consistent unity of Scripture.  To do otherwise is like building your own nuclear physics and throwing out that crazy idea about radiation.

Photos courtesy of Doug88888, GARNET

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