Theology as Wind-Surfing

The last four paragraphs have been about theology – an enterprise that, despite the oftentimes homicidal urgency Christians attach to is, has yet to save anybody. What saves us is Jesus, and the way we lay hold of that salvation is by faith. And faith is something that, throughout this book, I shall resolutely refuse to let mean anything other than trusting Jesus. It is simply saying yes to him rather than no. It is, at its root, a mere ‘uh-huh’ to him personally. It does not necessarily involve any particular theological structure or formulation; it does not entail any particular degree of emotional fervor; and above all, it does not depend on any specific repertoire of good works – physical, mental, or moral. It’s just ‘Yes, Jesus,’ till we die – just letting the power of his resurrection do, in our deaths, what it has already done in his.

My purpose in saying this so strongly, however, is not simply to alert you to some little band of intellectuals called theologians who may try to talk you into thinking otherwise. Such types exist, of course, but they are usually such bores that all they do is talk you out of wanting to even breathe. No, the reason for my vehemence is that all of us are theologians. Every one of us would rather choose the right-handed logicalities of theology over the left-handed mystery of faith. Any day of the week – and twice on Sundays, often enough – we will labor with might and main to take the only thing that can save anyone and reduce it to a set of theological club rules designed to exclude almost everyone.

Christian theology, however, never is and never can be anything more than the thoughts that Christians have (alone or with others) after they have said yes to Jesus. Sure, it can be a thrilling subject. Of course, it is something you can do well or badly – or even get right or wrong. And naturally, it is one of the great fun things to do on weekends when your kidney stones aren’t acting up. Actually, it is almost exactly like another important human subject that meets all the same criteria: wind-surfing. Everybody admires it, and plenty of people try it. But the number of people who can do it well is even smaller than the number who can do it without making fools of themselves.

Trust Jesus, then. After that, theologize all you want. Just don’t lose your sense of humor if your theological surfboard deposits you unceremoniously in the drink.

Robert Farrar Capon in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus (Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 24-25

One thought on “Theology as Wind-Surfing

  1. About faith the author says, ‘It does not necessarily involve any particular theological structure or formulation; it does not entail any particular degree of emotional fervor; and above all, it does not depend on any specific repertoire of good works – physical, mental, or moral. It’s just ‘Yes, Jesus,’ till we die – just letting the power of his resurrection do, in our deaths, what it has already done in his.’
    Yes, so much agree thank you. And I would like to add, is there nevertheless care we must take in not diminishing the inescapable validity within the systematic study of the nature of God and religious truth (theology)? ‘But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.’ ( Rom. 7:6) So then what does the operation of Spirit filled faith look like?
    If we can consider theology’s relation to faith, I am convinced that the quality of faith’s supernatural answering to the structure of theology is expressed and supported by the appeal from Scripture itself. ‘But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.’ (1 Cor. 2:10,11). So then fundamental to the fruit of saying ‘yes to Jesus’ is ‘yes I repent of my dead works’. They are inseparable realities to genuine conversion. Inarticulate as they may be, they are nevertheless present in the broken heart. All Christians have the same Holy Spirit and same quality of faith. They are all brought to believe the same Jesus.
    In other words, none of us can escape the fact that theology is servant to doctrine. The quality of a newly conceived faith (if it could) would not want to disregard this connect anyhow . The point is that God has designed it this way to work in us and the doctrine of Scripture testifies to this hermeneutically. It is true that the pride of life too often brings down and reduces the reality of theology’s ambition into works, robbing it of its simplicity and the intention of Scripture to promote the furthering of Christian encouragement and growth in Christ. But just like doctrine, we are not at liberty to identify theology as a religious add on, caveat, or a virtue in and of itself apart from the working of Gospel faith. That is why our Lord states, ‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.’ … yes He informs us dogmatically by actually saying ‘know’. And this is not a prideful thing to develop theologically. It actually supports and defends the character of humility accompanying faith.
    ‘But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.’ (Rom. 6:17)
    About exclusivity the author says, ‘we will labor with might and main to take the only thing that can save anyone and reduce it to a set of theological club rules designed to exclude almost everyone. ‘
    I am thankful that the Scriptures are not inarticulate in describing for us the wonder of the particulars of God’s infinite grace. As He is incomprehensible and without a beginning or end, knowing Him from the Scriptures is similar. We’ll never get to His end for sure. We must at the same time be watchful and not tolerate subtleties of turning the Scripture’s definition of true simple faith into low information drive-by inclusiveness.
    ‘But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.’ (1 Jn 2:20,21)
    Just like how I teach my children that faith is not ambiguous but specific and God can answer to all your needs and questions as He reveals Himself to you by the ‘rule’ of faith… or structure of faith, so it is when we testify to an unsaved friend the intimate and personal interest Jesus has for His lost sheep.
    So the excerpt concludes, ‘Trust Jesus, then. After that, theologize all you want. Just don’t lose your sense of humor if your theological surfboard deposits you unceremoniously in the drink.’
    To which, no man by God’s salvific grace, can escape the rule that understands that a Christian is set free from the bondage of legal fear knowing that God has forgiven him/her and set them free from the power of sin and the devil. ‘And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.’ God’s terms and definition of faith is simple yet structured. It is what definitively makes authentic faith genuinely, theological. Peace

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