Thursday, July 26, 2012

Poisonous Berries and Theology

Margot wanted someone to eat one of the berries. "Then we would know if they were poisonous," she said from a tree branch. She had followed her sister and cousin up a small trunk. They were collecting fruit and nuts.


I warned all the kids that the berries were fatal. Uncle-Daddy's word should be enough. I am educated and trustworthy guardian. Nevertheless, Margot wanted proof. She wanted to witness a death. No one from our party offered. I could see her scanning the playground for volunteers. Only first-hand experience would convince my daughter.

The way we elevate personal experience over theology amuses me. Mom said the stove was hot, but her daughter didn't buy it until she got burned. Jesus forecast his resurrection, but Thomas didn't believe until feeling the nail holes. Pastor Dick stressed the efficacy of prayer, but member Jane didn't believe until her request was answered.

C.S. Lewis once wrote about the difference between theology and experience using the metaphor of a map. Many a man has preferred getting lost on SR 13 than consult a map. Most people would prefer a dip in the Atlantic to a class on oceanography. Both have their place. And yet, stressed Lewis, the map was born of out years of exploration and experience. Tried and tested and refined over time.

Theology is a map. It has been tried and tested and refined over time. It was born out of years of exploration--Abraham went and Moses wandered--and experience--Jesus arose and the Spirit descended.

When our experience does not conform to our orthodoxy, we pit ourselves against a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1). I can swallow what my Uncles and Fathers in the faith have said, or trust my five senses.

The fruit dangles. What will you chose?

1 comment:

4suchatimeasthis said...

Margot has good, logical reasoning... I realy enjoyed her comment! (and her dad's writing...)