Why I am not a theologian

I was the kind of person who could, using some plausible excuse, inflict on a person I cared for a wound that would never heal.

Haruki Murakami,
South of the Border, West of the Sun

These lines from a story have haunted me lately. They seem to ring true in so many ways. People do inflict wounds on people they care about. I know, I have done it. And doesn’t it sometimes feel like your wounds will never heal? Your heart is broken in the same place so often. You are in pieces, and don’t think those stress fractures inside can ever be knit together. You have stopped imagining a time when you will feel whole again. I know, I have felt that.

The despair in this story is tangible. But as I read it, I was reminded that this is not the only story I have read. I know other stories about other people, like this one:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called mighty oaks,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations

Isaiah 61:1-4

This is why I’m not a theologian. I don’t have clever answers about God, or how the universe works. I am not skilled in theological debate and cannot answer questions greater minds than mine have grappled with in the past. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, or why good things happen to bad people.

But I can tell stories…

I write to remember that there is more than one story. That you and me, we are not limited, forever destined to hurt people as we try in vain to stem the flow of blood from our own gaping wounds.

There are other stories, other authors, other narrators, other ways of seeing and being in the world. There are stories of healing and grace and forgiveness. Beauty does grow up out of ashes, joy does come in the morning. There is hope of a steadfast love that never ceases, never leaves or forsakes. There are stories that end well, where the people are comforted, the land is healed, the King returns for His bride and the Kingdom is restored.

There is more than one story. The choice is, which one do I read? Which one do I tell myself and the people around me? Which one is my story?

“And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony…”

16 responses to “Why I am not a theologian

  1. Another great post, Abby.

    I do wonder why you are study hermeneutics, then. :)

    In my young life I have learned that, in the end, I will not wish I had won more theological debates, written one more article, or tackled the opportunity of writing a book. I will wish I had loved people more with the real love of Christ. That, I know, is our deepest and ultimate call.

  2. Pingback: Why I Am Not a Theologian | The Prodigal Thought

  3. I also re-posted at my blog. Hope you are again ok with that. I think I got your permission for all time’s sake in the last re-post.

    • yeah I saw that… I think we may need to come to a little arrangement if that’s going to happen often! I will message you about it…

  4. haha, I wonder that myself. But, really, interpreting scripture is about reading God’s stories, and thinking about how we retell them/relate to them, don’t you think? I think it was your post the other day that made me realise that at heart, I’m not a theologian who wants to debate this or that about God, but rather a writer who wants to help tell his stories. Its not a comment on what anyone else should or shouldn’t do, but rather a view on who I am and what I can offer. I’m trying to play to my strengths, of which theological debate is not one!

  5. Which post was that – the whole forgiveness malarkey?

    I don’t know if the same is true for you, but as I have grown older (in life and in Christ), I have become more and more less dogmatic in my views of theology.

    • yeah. I just thought it was funny how you were disappointed with my lack of response to the more theological questions, and interesting to see in myself that it wasn’t those things that bothered me. I think the older we get in general, the more we realise that life isn’t so black and white, and God never quite fits neatly into the little boxes we make for him. I think that’s part of the reason stories are such a powerful way of communicating.

  6. Yes, very much so. I am intrigued of how to grow in my story-telling, especially in regards to communicating such while teaching/preaching.

  7. Also, do you think that story-telling is becoming more emphasised in this more post-modern day than in the generation before? I know it’s always been around. But just wondering if this is becoming much more important to a 21st century, post-modern day and communicating with this generation.

    • mmm, I think its always been important, but post-modernism is contributing to its resurgence in a big way. I think its a way for us to communicate without resorting to arguing about a set of propositional truths. I also think you can tell a story and it can get into people’s hearts in a way that facts can’t. You don’t necessarily always need to explain the story – just tell it and let it do its work for those who have ‘ears to hear.’

  8. I think its a way for us to communicate without resorting to arguing about a set of propositional truths. I also think you can tell a story and it can get into people’s hearts in a way that facts can’t. You don’t necessarily always need to explain the story – just tell it and let it do its work for those who have ‘ears to hear.’

    +1. And this is precisely why to get a degree in hermeneutics: Narrative theology is grounded in a kind of hermeneutic epistemology :-).

  9. yep yep yep. Thanks for another reminder about why I’m doing this! :)

  10. I don’t have much of a clue what you and Scott and Chach are talking about, but I loved what you wrote, but I do agree that finding ourselves in God’s story is our only hope in this world.

  11. I agree with Mary, way to go Abs! I like stories. Especially true and encouraging ones like YOUR LIFE!! :) I loooveee it.

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