Tuesday, April 12, 2011


All theology is biography. I have said that for some time now and I still believe it. Regardless of how we may systematize our thoughts about God, Humanity, and the Cosmos with points and sub-points, it still comes down to our story and how we work to understand. Theologians may write materials that help us in our search. Often I find that theologians of the past only make that effort more difficult by writing in very hard-to-read paragraphs with far too much complexity than is really needed. Some of the new "kids on the block" are penning their thoughts in such a way that most can read and grasp the concept. For that gesture I am grateful.

But it still comes down to a story; our story and the stories of those with whom we inter-mingle. Perhaps that is why we can sometimes find more insight in novels, dramas, movies, poetry and essays than we do in a supposed theological blockbuster. And as we tell and listen to each other's stories,light comes through.

A story was the main way of communication for Jesus, especially in the synoptic Gospels. Parables, aphorisms, and one-liners were used to describe the Empire of God. When his listeners could not grasp what he was saying and inquire as to what it meant, he would most often "tell another story."

As I pass my years with preaching/teaching responsibilities, I am becoming more aware of the value of a good story. Stories that are exciting, heart-breaking, humorous, inquisitive, and thought-provoking can more readily speak to the heart than a declaration with three main points.

I use a particular tool for my personal Bible study. It is called the Bible Workbench. The idea is to take a passage of scripture and ask three questions about it: what is happening in the text, how is this happening in today's world, and how is this happening in my life? It is amazing what can break out of a text when those three questions are asked.

So, learn your story. Just because you have lived it doesn't mean that you know or explicitly understand it. It takes work. Include all the chapters: the good, the bad, the grand, the messy, the betrayals, the commitments, the strides, the failures and the questions.

So read the theologians, especially the current ones. But know your story. Tell it to someone who will hear you and then listen to theirs. You are a breathing, walking, talking, piece of theological art.

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