Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Theological Jenga

I remember vividly just what it was like when I finally figured out that the Bible was not authored word for word by God's hand. It was my first year of seminary. I also remember thinking, "Oh crap, is the Bible even meaningful at all then anymore?" After a few deep breaths I gathered my frantic thoughts and moved forward.
Yes, the Bible is meaningful to me even though it wasn't dictated audibly by God to faithful trance-induced ancient writers. I can still look to the Bible on matters of faith and practice knowing that it was written by a haggle of misfits, outcasts, kings and wonderers over the span of hundreds of years. I haven't thrown out the Bible.
Over the course of my upbringing I was given lots of little peices of theological dogma and truths. With these peices I formed theological bricks and began to build my wall which represents my theology.
Rob Bell has been known to talk about this brick wall. He says that many of us are afraid that if we remove a brick from the wall the entire thing will colapse. And that's a scary feeling for most people to entertain, because our theology partially forms our world view, our life paradigm.
So, when I removed the brick that read, "Bible: authored by God," I was afraid everything would come crashing down.
But it didn't...
Unfortunately, the notion of a wall can carry with it the idea of keeping people or other ideas out. Theological stone-walling can lead to close-mindedness and judgmentalism, so this image doesn't quite do it for me.
Rather, I would like to pose the picture of a theological game of Jenga. If, in this game I remove the same piece that advocates divine authorship, I can dust it off, smooth an edge or two and re-place it on the top. Now, granted this takes some gentleness and a smooth hand, but I think it is the healthier way to operate.
I met many other people in college who for the first time took an academic course on the New Testament and came out as atheists. Their entire faith had been dashed in a 3 month class taught by just one person. I can only imagine that one or two pieces of their theological Jenga tower had been violently jerked out causing the rest to tumble. And this was sad for me to watch, especially as a college pastor in later years.
My hope for this post is that when our paradigms are challenged we won't throw out the divine baby with the theological bath water. There are many Jenga bricks from my childhood that still need to be taken out, examined, polished and put somewhere else. My sister is helping me with this process right now. I can confess that some of my peices have been discarded completely because they just didn't fit. And that's fine. It is a healthy process that we call growing in faith and understanding.
Maybe you have experienced your own Jenga tower topple. No doubt it was a painful process. Maybe yours is swaying and feels unsturdy. I wish I had a remedy to fix such a problem, but I don't. All I can say is I know it's a difficult process that brings you to a place of uncertainty, and nobody likes that feeling. I can only offer my story as hope or perhaps inspiration.
If you are swaying I'm happy to talk with you or suggest some books that helped me. Grace and peace to you.


Erin Miller said...

Great analogy! And how fun to be there when the idea first hit. You ran well with it!

Vicki Hesse said...

I love that we get to Live the Questions altogether!