Friday, May 18, 2012

Finding My Brain

Every so often, I find pictures that strike me as really funny. This would be one of them.

There have been (far too many) times where I've said or done something (profoundly stupid), and later wondered, "What was I thinking?!?" And when I haven't thought to ask myself that question, I have been blessed with friends and family who will ask it for me.

Deep down, I believe that God gave us brains for more reasons other than simply keeping our ears from collapsing together. The old joke about not parking your brain by the door is no less valid today than whenever it was first articulated. Too often, we've seen the pendulum swing wildly between a dry, lifeless over-intellectualization of our faith, and the other extreme of virtually celebrating stupidity as a higher spiritual state of being.

I'm also very aware that humility is a deeply-needed character trait when writing about using our brains. It's not helpful to have the attitude -- unspoken, usually, but often in evidence nonetheless -- of "if people were thinking straight, they'd think like me".

But at the same time, I don't believe it's inconsistent with being humble and teachable, to also have strongly held convictions about what we believe. I'd like to (gently) suggest that holding no strong convictions may not qualify as a sign of humility -- it might actually be better described as the 'paralysis of cowardice'.

Everybody has a grid that they approach knowledge from. (I should probably do a post on the 'myth of objectivity' at some point.) As I reflect on the way my own brain seems to be wired, I guess I'm drawn most naturally to what has been called "biblical theology".

"Biblical theology for the most part is a Christian approach in which the theologian studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing Himself to humanity following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It particularly focuses on the epochs of the Old Testament in order to understand how each part of it ultimately points forward to fulfillment in the life mission of Jesus Christ." (source: Wikipedia)

That's not meant to draw a line in the sand. It's not designed to shut out other approaches (eg. systematic theology). It doesn't mean I'm close-minded and unteachable.

It just means that as I continue "finding my brain", I am aware of my own mental grid/worldview, and am comfortable working within it. And hopefully, what I am thinking and living has consistency within that understanding.

5 comments:

  1. Please do post about the "myth of objectivity".

    Okay, and now to the post on hand.
    You'll have to excuse my ignorance but how does "biblical theology" work? Perhaps I should just ask you to further explain "biblical theology", perhaps only using 1 and 2 syllable words so that red-necked theological dimwits such as myself can understand it. I've (probably wrongly) understood systematic theology to be linked with reformed theology.
    In other words, "huh?".

    KSG

    ReplyDelete
  2. KSG, after meeting you finally last year, I can't put you into the "redneck" category. :)

    Systematic theology takes all the Bible verses on a particular topic, and attempts to create a "big picture" understanding of that topic. It's pretty helpful if, say, somebody asked you to do a Bible study on baptism. And it's not just the Reformed crew that uses systematic theology. If you were personally to sit down and try to pull together a bible study on "baptism of the Holy Spirit" by looking at all the times it's mentioned in the book of Acts, you'd be doing systematic theology.

    Biblical theology is just looking at the flow from Old Testament to New Testament, with the idea of understanding what the context of the gospels (for example) was. Ie. When Jesus came announcing "the kingdom is near", was that a new idea, or does it flow out of the Old Testament? (It does.) So understanding that background can be very helpful in understanding what Jesus meant by "the kingdom is near", and how his hearers would have understood what He meant.

    Is that any less thick, or should I throw in some Jeff Foxworthy for effect? :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. P.S. I recently became a part of the "Society of Vineyard Scholars", so I've been interacting with some truly brilliant PhD types over the past month or so, which has been fun and challenging. And, inevitably, it shows up here at the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Alright, so in redneck speak, "systematic theology" is useful if I need to rebuild the drivetrain on the mud-bogger I am trying to modify into the next great mud bog racing champion, since it gets down deep into things like wiring diagrams, transmission manuals, and engine schematics. But 'biblical theology" is useful in helping me become the next great mud bog champion because it gets into things like, since you have already changed the spark plugs last week and this week you changed the gear ratio on the rear axle, then tomorrow when you hit the button that adds the nitrious oxide to your fuel injectors, you better remember to have one hand on your lucky truckers hat or else you're gonna lose it. Yeehaw!
    And you think I ain't no redneck!
    KSG

    ReplyDelete
  5. Okay, so redneck speak aside, I think that did help. If I'm understanding things right, systematic theology is like a technical manual and biblical theology is like an operating manual. S.T. seeks to comprehensively explain an isolated subject while B.T. seeks to explain how a subject fits within the landscape of other related subjects. How's that?


    P.S. the "Society of Vineyard Scholars" sounds like code for a bunch of folks who enjoy visiting wineries. I think the local rednecks have a similar group, the "Society Of Barley Examiners", although since I live in the Kootenays, the "Society of Herbal Smokers" has more members, with the "Society for Fungal Experiences" drawing more than a few members as well.

    ReplyDelete