Tuesday, February 26, 2008

thinking about stories, struggling with theology

i grew up thinking that theology was a fancy word for finding loopholes within the bible so we didn't have to be obedient to it.

i'm not really sure anyone taught me that, it was just sort of the swill of the lifer pentecostals that i'd overheard as a kid.

thankfully, mom and dad felt a little differently and i was encouraged to invest myself in a solid grounding in scripture and its context.

+ + + +

in parallel moments, as a kid i always wanted to be a writer. i have my own imagination and love to get caught up in other ways of looking at the world.

science fiction was my schtick - it was where all the important questions were being asked, albeit in poor prose - but sci fi/fantasy were almost universally understood by charismatics to be godless myths and old wives tales...so i tried to grow out of it.

+ + + +

flash forward 20 years (holy crap, am i really old enough to say that?) and i'm a religious 'professional,' fearful that such a label might be more fact (and interdiction) than fiction.

i love the bible, i love theology, i love to teach

but i'm caught: i don't enjoy dumbing things down, but the un-dumbed teaching i endeavor to bring really doesn't mean a ton to everybody...and by everybody i really mean i'm forced to acknowledge that at least 1/3 (please, dear jesus, let it only be 1/3) of the people whom i'm charged to serve have no idea 1/2 of the time (please, dear jesus, let it only be 1/2 of the time) what i'm talking about.

but if they did...i'm convinced it would make a difference in the way they live in relation to god, to others, to themselves, and to the world (thanks to scot mcknight for supplying the rubric here).

so...full circle...i love the bible because it changes the way i live. it connects me more deeply to jesus, makes me more sensitive to the spirit, and corrects me through the instruction and authority of the father (of course, each trinitarian person does more than this...these are just my access points).

but it hurts me when i teach the bible and it's not as transformational to others as it is to me...because some are hard-hearted, some are bored, some are simply unable to understand the gobble-d-gook i'm shooting out my mouth.

so, how do i get it to make more sense to more normal people?

again - the classical answer is that i should just speak slower, use more ordinary language, and clearly delineate every point i'm trying to make.

there's nothing wrong with that - i really have only one objection to those things: that advice doesn't feel like me.

if it's true that we're all one of a kind, and that following jesus is very much about discovering who we uniquely are in Him, then i'm forced to believe that part of my spirituality is to discover the truest possible version of myself in christ...which doesn't allow me to simply follow the conventional, professional, wisdom of how to be a more understandable pastor.

instead, it leads me to thinking about my own construction, my spiritual DNA - which i'm convinced has always been marked and inspired by story.

so i've begun to write stories - some collaboratively, some in verse, some fun, some dark. i'm just stretching my fictional muscles (pun intended) in something i've always enjoyed but recently ignored.

now, i'm not sure that i'll use stories to illustrate theology...that seems like bad storytelling, worse theology, and even worse relationship...but i do think that stories have their own theology, which speaks to us on its own terms, and that theology is shaped and governed by the inspiration of the author.

sound familiar?

anyways - i'm using this post as a way to mark my territory, as it were. however unskilled or unused, i've chosen to throw my lot in with charles williams, madelein l'engle, and c.s. lewis.

and why not?

every great writer needs bad imitators :)


  1. Anonymous10:41 PM


    you're throwing your lot in with guys like c.s.lewis? sheesh. he couldn't even afford a whole first name.

    but seriously, it's cool to hear that you're finding more avenues for expressing yourself. i think a lot of deep truths can be shared and understood through fiction. i guess that comment shouldn't be a surprise coming from me. besides, jesus loved communicating in veiled ways through parable and story. and he had a whole first name, so throwing your lot in with him isn't just a bad thing either.

    one thing you have to promise--you will not publish a novel before i do or i may be forced to break a commandment.


  2. Urban Cottage2:57 PM

    Hey Reverend! I wanted to let you know I've started my own blog and I have you as a link. Check out my blog at www.tahnivoelz.blogspot.com and if you like what you see you can link me!