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Q & R: Sometimes I think our theologies are just way too small to fit this knowledge and I don't know what to do with it

Here's the Q:

I am writing because I am just so thankful for your voice in this world. When I had the amazing opportunity to have coffee with you I asked questions about grieving old beliefs, the fear of transition from a structure I had held for so long, questioning how to read Scripture and make sense of so many verses. I needed help re-orienting in many ways. Now I'm writing because I have so many new questions. Sometimes I think Christianity (and any religious understanding for that matter) is just too small for who God is. Other times I wonder IF God really is. I am learning about evolution and astronomy and see how big our universe and history really are. Sometimes I think our theologies are just way too small to fit this knowledge and I don't know what to do with it. I've walked through some major tragedies with friends and I wonder if there is a God, if he really cares. I look at the horrors happening around the world and I wonder if God is, why he doesn't hurry up and do more to create peace in this world, or rescue it in fullness. I wonder why people of faith don't do more, I wonder why I don't do more? I know you've thought through and experienced a lot of these things and I just wonder how you see God in all of this? Where do you see Jesus? How have these things shaped your view of God? Sometimes I don't know how to have conversations with Christians anymore because it seems like there would need to be hours of pre-talking to even remotely be able to understand one another. I don't know how you manage to bridge that gap so graciously, brilliantly and eloquently. Anyways, I guess I feel somewhere in 'perplexity' and 'lost in transition' again and am just looking for some wise advice. Thank you for so often being available to your readers. You are truly a gift to this generation and I'm thankful for you and your work.

Here's the R:


Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I know a lot of people will share your questions and frustrations. I thought I'd just offer one brief comment ...

When you said, "Sometimes I think our theologies are just way too small to fit this knowledge and I don't know what to do with it," you're suggesting, I think, that there are two kinds of theologies.

Some theologies are like rooms. The doorkeepers say, "When you walk in through this door, you'll find everything you're looking for inside. You'll never want to leave once you enter."

Some theologies are like doors. Their doorkeepers say, "When you walk out through this door, you enter a world of endless wonder. You'll encounter mysteries too big to be contained."

Tradition means that we look back and see the story of unfolding, enlarging, deepening understandings ... A living tradition expects that story to continue; a dying tradition presumes it has already arrived and there's little room for continuing growth in understanding. What I think you're yearning for - as are so many of us - is a living tradition, a learning theology, and a door into mystery and meaning.

That's one of the reasons I am endlessly fascinated by Jesus. He introduces us to the latter approach ... The new wine of his gospel can't be contained in old wineskins. Or as Paul said, "The letter kills. The Spirit gives life." Discipleship is a continual call to childlike faith, humility, and wonder because the more we understand, the more we realize we don't understand.