Monday, June 18, 2007

Theology's Top Model!

Since I have my summer off (don't hate me cause I'm beautiful) I decided I could now go to an early morning bible study that my job usually precludes me from attending.

In one of the first emails from the group they used a word I didn't know (not a good sign) - dispensationalism. Actually, I had a general idea what it meant, but since isms of any sort make me squeemish, I figured I better raise my hand and ask the teacher to use it in a sentence.

One of the guys in the group emailed back a well detailed explanation of dispensationalism and its history in the church. I won't repeat it here but, in short, it is an explanation of how God has dealt with man throughout history. The writer also presented some of the alternatives to this idea.

People often cling doggedly to one of the many sides of this issue, but as I read I noticed I could see them as nothing more than possible- and incomplete- models.

It reminded me of Galileo. He got into a lot of trouble for proposing a model of the universe that contradicted the church of Rome. He felt that the existing model (Earth centered) did not explain the skies or make predictions as well as his model (Sun centered). In the end, though Galileo's model was an improvement, it was still incomplete. I wonder if he would have been slow to surrender his model if he had lived to see it being supplanted.

It seems to me that all of our denominations, tenants, religions, and beliefs are nothing more than our attempts to develop a model to explain what we see when we look at God. Perhaps they are also our attempt to make Him predictable.

Sometimes models seem to contradict each other. If you have ever caught Brian Greene on PBS, you may have heard him explain the apparent contradictions of String Theory and Relativity. String Theory seems to work great at the quantum level but doesn't help at the cosmic level. Relativity works to explain the cosmos, but breaks down as we head toward the quantum level. Men like Stephen Hawking would like to find a single, unified theory to explain everything.

Science is good at holding two apparently contradictory theories. Men of Science know that there is more to know.

Theologians (and religious folks in general) tend to find it very difficult to hold two theories of God that seem to be in opposition. The tendency is to champion one model while belittling proponents of the other.

If we have yet to find a unified model for physics, why would we think we could develop a unified model for God?

For myself, I tend to hold my models of God very loosely. I suspect that God was referring to our models when he told us not to "make any graven image". I don't know that he was as concerned with little clay images to sit on our shelves, but rather our tendency to want lock God down, to quantify Him, to point and say, "This is who He is!"

The Spirit blows wherever it pleases... He will not be contained.

In the end, I think our models tell us a lot more about ourselves than they do about God.
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