Monday, April 03, 2006

Jeff Tell: Bad Opinions and Flying Buttresses

Today, please welcome guest blogger Jeff Tell. Jeff appears courtesy of Pilgrim at Ashley Avenue, and wrote the following piece that I believe you will find thought provoking.

The Flying Buttress of Omniscience

I used to have lots of bad opinions. I'm not completely cured of the malady, but I'm getting there. One of the bad opinions that I used to hold was to think that the heart of true Christianity was in knowing good theology. Sure, I would have granted that you could be a Christian without knowing much theology, but not for long. If you were a faithful Christian, a committed Christian, then you would know theology. Articulating and defending the 5 points of Calvinism was a minimum. After that, you learned to dismantle a position on free-will. And if you were really serious about Christianity, you started reading Christian literature from the 16th and 17th centuries. This was true, deep Christianity.

I don't think this anymore. Partly, because I realized that the Bible didn't agree with me. The Bible says, over and over, that what God wants us to do is to love him, to show mercy, and to pursue justice. James says that true religion is to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. I think the Bible says that the heart of true religion is, well, in the heart. It consists in caring for people, loving them, helping them, giving yourself to them. Treating people with dignity, because that's the way God made them. In other words, Christianity has something to do with being like Jesus.

Theological erudition is not a bad thing. But I have assigned it a new place in my scheme of what it means to be a Christian. It used to be the Cathedral, the main thing, the looker. Now it is the flying buttresses.

You see, medieval cathedrals used to be short, stocky affairs, being limited by their architecture and building supplies. Till someone came up with the Flying Buttress. The buttresses were external supports that allowed the cathedrals to have tall, thin walls, that rose higher than they ever could on their own. Theology is like these buttresses. Love, mercy and justice are the cathedral of Christianity, they are what it means to be in love with God. And each bit of theology you learn is a flying buttress to support your faith. The doctrince of Omniscience is a buttress to give us a settled peace. The knowledge of God's providence is a buttress that supports our hope. The knowledge of the 5 points of Calvinism is a buttress that gives us confidence in the power of God to save sinners. The peace, hope, and trust are what we need, the flying buttresses of theology are what help us build these virtues tall.

Sometimes I desire to have tall strong buttresses more than I desire to have a cathedral. Like I said, I'm still dealing with some bad opinions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow - JT guest blogging!