Periodically I have an opportunity to play at being (or becoming) a theologian. One opportunity came when I got together in Canberra with a range of other want-to-be theologians from diverse backgrounds and churches. Our purpose was to discuss recent trends in theology and examine how they apply to life in the real world. We did lots of the first but not much of the second!
But what did I learn? Well, it did remind me of a story. I am currently building a garage. I did my homework and worked out that the best and cheapest option was to purchase one in kit form and put it together myself. The salesman was confident that anybody could put it together “yes, you and your wife will have no trouble”. I niavely believed him…thinking it may not be easy, but all I have to do is follow the instructions.
The so-called instructions were just the engineering specs and the plans to be submitted to council. But all I had to do was put the pieces of the jig saw puzzle together – just start at the bottom and work up! Then I found that some bits required more brute force than we had available. Other sections required extra-ordinary long arms when we only had standard ones. There were building techniques that required three sets of hands when we only had two available. There were times when we despaired of ever finishing it because it was not obvious how it really fitted together and where do these other bits “fit”?
Seems to me that many people come to faith like that. They are told they can do it – they sign up and are assured they have all the bits required, all you have to do is follow the instructions. They look at the instructions – the Bible and find that it is in code! They decide they can do it without being able to decode the specs, but run into a whole range of other problems and give up in a mess and walking away from a half completed garage in total frustration. What went wrong? They did not get any help with theology! My role as a theologian is to breakdown the engineering specs and plans and develop some step by step instructions of how to really put it together, including some trade secrets on easy ways to do it.
I finished the garage, but still have to work out what to do with all the leftover bits. But my real job here is to help others to build their lives and maybe help them see and interpret God’s overall plan.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley