We fought wars for it, tortured and executed innocent people for it. We divided the church over it. And the truth is, it doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as theology.
I know what you’re going to say. “Of course there is! I learned about it in Sunday school.”
Wrong. You learned opinions about God. You didn’t learn the study of God. Biology is the study of biological things. Geology is the study of the earth. “Ology” is the study of something–and you can’t study God.
You Can’t Study God
For as long as people have had the cranial capacity, we have been studying things. We studied fire and learned how to master its use. We studied the stars, learned how to navigate by them so that now we can navigate to them. We studied God–oh wait. No, we didn’t.
But we sure talked about God. We talked about God so much that we thought we were actually studying God. In fact, I went to seminary that offered a Master of Divinity degree–as if we could master the Divinity. Do you know what I learned in that seminary? Theology doesn’t exist.
Theology is a misnomer because it isn’t the study of God. It’s the study of observations we made about the world, which lead us to ideas about God. Theology is the study of testimonies from people who believe they had a direct experience of God. It’s the study of the history of people’s notions about God, and how those ideas and people interacted with each other. When we elevate our opinions to an “ology,” we demote God to a sample in a Petrie dish. Then we decide who’s right and who’s wrong. We fight with those we label wrong and call them sinners or heretics. These labels enable us to alienate them and kill them. Because we made God a subject to study, rather than an ocean in which to swim.
Don’t get me wrong–I can do theology with the best of them. I can talk about Israel’s heilsgeschichte, dispensationalism, and penal substitutionary atonement all day long. In fact, I’ll spend a good bit of this blog doing just that. But I’m not under the delusion that any of this is real. At most, theology is our best guess about what God is like. Theology comes far short of being an actual study of actual God.
I learned more from being a child, and then from raising wonderful kids who are now grown than I did from textbooks. I gain more from a walk in nature, from worshiping in church, drinking with friends, or from meditating than I did in seminary. Sometimes you need a little breathing space more than you need theology—and that’s where you find God.
This blog is called Breathing Space because through it, I offer you a place to rest in safety and explore your relationship with God—free from the constrictions of religion. Jesus cared extraordinarily little for theology, but told the seeker who asked about proper theologically-based worship:
“…The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24 NRSV).”
In this spirit and truth, there is room to breathe. Room for freedom, grace, and peace. But also, space to listen to the voice of God who breathes truth upon us. Thomas Merton said, “Nothing has ever been said about God that hasn’t already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.” Jesus said, “The wind blows where it will, and so is anyone born of the Spirit.” Instead of theology, I invite you to let the wind blow upon you and create a little breathing space in your life. Because it’s in this space that you’ll find God.