A Century of Convertitis?

Mike makes an interesting post over at The Way of the Fathers on the Marketplace of Ideas. Beginning with a familiar quote from Gregory of Nyssa regarding Trinitarian debates with his baker and fishmonger, Mike goes on to lament that our times are not quote so filled with theological debate. (I’m sure he means only outside of the blogosphere!)

Once again, ordinary Christians needed to understand what they believed and why, because their theology could affect not only their salvation, but also their employment, their place of residence, and even their survival.

While that last line begs Church-state questions in today’s world, I’ve begun to wonder if the rest of it was ever true at all. First I’ve wondered if Gregory wasn’t just making up a good story to highlight how tedious it all was. But also:

Is “what I believe” at all important to who God is and his ability to save me? I don’t think so any more. My theology does not make God or limit his actions. Or does it? Do you believe in a God who fits into a certain theological box – one that I reject? Does that mean there is more than one God? Or that God doesn’t hear one of our prayers?

We’ve made a mush of “revelation” and “divine action in the Church” and then we read backwards into history our understanding so that, logically, what we believe now is clearly what was intended when Jesus said X, Y or Z… Our modern creedal main course is so much more than “Jesus is Lord” and yet we claim it was implied in that teaching. The Trinity (in which I believe) is read backwards into history even back to Abraham. Makes perfect sense, right?

No. It does not. Come, sit, eat… Jesus is here.

They would not settle for just the sacraments of initiation. They wanted to keep studying till even a saint would find them annoying.

I’m thinking I find it all annoying too.

Theology is not just for the elites. It’s a basic life skill. St. Gregory himself knew this, and that’s why he wrote one of the Church’s first catechisms.

I agree with that – but the implication that there is a *right* theology and, in fact, we must get to and agree with that one right one… so complex, so deep, so involved as to need degrees and languages and words that neither the apostles nor Jesus himself would have known or recognised as important… nope. That’s where I draw the line any more.

The people that Gregory complains about were, in fact, contentious. Chop wood, carry water – or sell fish and bake bread. Let’s get on with living.

2 Responses to “A Century of Convertitis?”

June 28th, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Some sort of decision must be made about the nature of reality and how it interacts with a person, even if it’s on as basic a level as Deity X seems to be more effective for increasing my rice crop than Deity Y. This is a theology. Once one recognizes that there is a level of reality beyond the immediate confines of the material, one must find a way to explain, or to put it more accurately, interact with that reality.

When faced with more ‘complex’ theological/ontological ‘systems,’ one must decide how to respond to them. Deciding on a simplified (or more complex) Christianity, for instance, involves a conscious construction of a way of looking at Christ, that has to first be put together and then defended against alternative views. Which means elaboration: why a simplified Christianity? What is the relation of this Christianity to other religions? Any answers have to be defended. I say ‘have to’; obviously no one is holding a gun to your head, but it seems to me in our highly literate (in the sense of at least being able to type on keyboards) age, it’s impossible to ignore other beliefs. And all beliefs are ‘exclusionary,’ in one sense or another. Positing a Christ who is open to everybody and doesn’t care so much for what you believe means positing a Christ unnaceptable to a lot of people.

June 28th, 2007 at 10:38 pm

“Any answers have to be defended.”

I’m tempted to agree with you: but most of us seem to act as if our defence of the answer is a defence of God himself rather than our understandings of him. Have all the complex (or simple) debates about stuff one might wish – or walk away, even. I’m trying to point out there is no difference in God, no matter how we might guess at his mysteries.

I do agree with the first paragraph, I think: “Deity X seems to be more effective for increasing my rice crop than Deity Y.” We make statements like that based on our experience. The key word is “seems”. In another town Deity Y may be the Rice Winner.