How Theology Should Work: Pt. 1, Theology as Poetry

Posted on June 22, 2007. Filed under: Theological Crap |

This is part one of a series of how theology should work according to me :

Theology is of course any talk or thoughts about the divine.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be the divine that I think about or that anyone else thinks about.  Theology is simply thoughts on G/god.  Everyone is a theologian in some way or another.  People around the world and in each of our communities have different ways of expressing this theology, from the deeply religious, to the seeking agnostic to the ardent atheist.  Of course I am approaching this from the angle of someone who does believe in God. 

For part one I would like to say that I believe theology should be poetry.  I know coming from me this is a little odd seeing that I usually hate poetry, but there’s no other way for me to say it. There is a beauty that “God talk” should bring out.  It should inspire and attempt to make whole something that is not.  In the book, The Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope, and the Force, John C. McDowell expresses it this way, “The poet…can help to make the world significant, displaying aspects of it in imaginative ways that would be otherwise missed or obscured by dominant scientific modes of ‘reading’.”  We should paint pictures with our words.  The words alone should remind us of the great landscape painters who were trying to portray something that no one else could see.  To bring to another person, something that can usually only be experienced if you are there.

Something that I’ve learned (and I think I have an unfortunate ability to do) is that inspirational theology should open up a mystery into the divine that could even move someone to tears (that’s the part I’m talking about, if I ever seriously get into some spiritual talk, a good portion of people end up crying).  This confused me at first and of course disturbed me.  That is until I began to realize that I’m not making someone sad or depressed.  Something is taking place inside of the other person that is moving their soul.  Something that they are dealing with, something that they are coming to an understanding of, something that has weighed heavily upon themselves is finally beginning to crack as they open their eyes to the grandness of the mystery. 

This is the poetry I’m speaking of.  In the best movie I’ve ever seen on the relationship between faith and reason, “Contact”, Jodie Foster’s character whispers the line, “They should have sent a poet!” as she gazes upon things in the universe that no other human eyes had seen.  This is what “God talk” should do.  Stand in awe of the mystery of it all, wonder at the immensity of it all and be humbled by your own smallness.  At the same time, that smallness and the immensity are mingled as we begin to realize that we are a part of something that is much bigger than ourselves.  There are times where we are participating not only in the present but also in the past and the future. 

There is that thread in each of us that connects every one of us to the other.  In the movie “Excalibur” Merlin solemnly tells Arthur, “When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.”  Here is an example of the poetry I’m talking about, especially in the context of our “divine” relationship with each other.  I think that even the early church understood this as Paul would essentially say, “When one person rejoices, we all rejoice, when one person suffers, we all suffer.”  Which will lead to the next post…theology should bring peace.


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