Saturday, May 4, 2013

Lumps under the rug


I’m NOT a theologian.

Despite my best efforts at self-education, I find a lot of theological debate is simply over my head.  I gave up trying to read some of the more intellectual Christian blogs because I could not understand 9 words out of 10.  (I have no idea whether I’m supposed to agree with Calvinism or Arminianism – or even if I actually understand what the difference is between them.)  I alternate between thinking I just lack the necessary education (C.S. Lewis was not a theologian either, and the nearly 1000 sermons I’ve heard over the last couple of decades are not the equivalent of a Divinity degree), and thinking my brain just isn’t wired in the right way and I should just stick to what I’m good at (like understanding the New Zealand Income Tax Act).

I read with interest this week the friendly lively discussion mutual accusations of heresy respectful debate between the Reverends Bosco Peters and Peter Carrell.  These are two Anglican bloggers that generally strike me as being down-to-earth and relevant.  What I took from this debate was not a deeper understanding of the topic, but an impression of how far behind they were leaving me.

I think Bosco was trying to make a point about how the average person understood a particular phrase, compared with a theologically trained listener.  That point seemed somewhat lost in the ensuing discussion about what the phrase in question actually should or did mean.  It was miles over my head.

My contribution to the discussion was:

I consider myself a mature, experienced Christian, who has benefitted from a great number of sermons from respected and well qualified theologians. However I still sometimes struggle to fully comprehend exactly what went on at the crucifixion. I tend to give up after a while and brush it all into an uncomprehensible divine mystery.

It’s all very well for me to be able to sweep the bits I can’t comprehend under the rug of “inexplicable divine mysteries” but sometimes I think that particular rug is getting embarrassingly lumpy.


I don’t think it’s necessary for my salvation for me to understand Soteriology – or even to know what that means.  I do think its important as a Christian to know what I believe and why I believe it.  This much I do know:  Jesus’ death was both necessary and sufficient to restore our relationship with God.  The details are in one of those embarrassing lumps under the rug.

I have appreciated over the years to be able to listen to speakers like Steve Graham – Dean of the Christchurch Campus of Laidlaw College (who BTW will be speaking at Westside Church tomorrow morning at 10:30am – *waves to Steve*) who are able to explain doctrine in a way that’s not only easily understood, but also relevant to daily Christian life.  The Christian blogsphere needs writers who can do the same, without using Greek, Latin or Jargon.


  1. P.S. - My husband just pointed out that the same issue applies in medicine and science too:

  2. Good post - there are some things I long to understand better and others that I am happy to leave to the theologians

  3. Thanks Claudia! I always return to the words of the risen Christ just before the Ascension: "You will be my witnesses." The key is to tell the truth about Someone we know. Knowing him is beyond debate, available to all, and makes all the difference.

    1. Thanks Gary. It points to the need for clear, understandable teaching and books (like yours for example) that help make the message accessible to all, without gobbledegook and jargon.