A few years ago I was actually on a mission trip (somewhere in the Middle East), with actual third year ministers-in-training. I walked in to the coffee room and joined a conversation about the Trinity. It was all very exciting.
No sooner had I sat down and reached for a biscuit, when I heard that phrase that just sucks all life out of a conversation, pops balloons, bursts bubbles, and leaves you thinking “WTF!”*
A group of third year ministers-in-training (did I say that already?), on an exciting mission trip, discussing the Trinity! Can it get better that that? And the moment someone (not me – I was making a coffee and reaching for the biscuits remember) mentioned Trinitarian perichoresis, that unusual word that tries to capture the indwelling of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with each other, someone actually said, “We can’t know anything about the Trinity…” to which most in the room feigned humility by agreeing, “…it’s a mystery!”
Ah! The sage has spoken. His followers, supping coffee, all agreeing. POP. What was that? Oh, that was the balloon that’s just been popped. I was so appalled (think ‘Yes, Prime Minister’) by the comment and murmuring afterwards, that the biscuit I was dipping in my coffee broke off and sank to the bottom. Another metaphor for my disgust!
Did I mention these were third year ministers-in-training? What Bible were they reading? What theology were they learning? What lectures were they attending? To what churches will they be going? OMG!** What is going on?
Ministers, preachers, theologians are called to say the Name of God accurately. Yes there is a great deal of mystery in the Christian faith, in God, but to pull the mystery card as the first and last thing we say about God is akin to abandoning posts, desertion, dereliction of duty, unthinking idolatry of the worst kind because it’s done by people who have been trained to say the Name of God accurately, carefully, fully. This is a form of Christian-Atheism.
But theology gives us words. Theos (GOD); Logos (WORD). Words about God. Theology. There is something to say. We have a language; we have a message; we have a tradition; we have a context; we have each other; we have hungry people all around us who want this ‘Word about God’ offered thoughtfully, prayerfully, with meaning, with precision, and yes, with mystery too!
The flow-chart comes from a blog post by an atheist HoorayReality. With thanks to him for this because in this regard I agree entirely that many Christians, too many, mumble the mystery card too cheaply, too easily. There is more to be said, and there is certainly more to the Christian faith than unthinking religious mumbo-jumbo.
*WTF = What The Flip
**OMG = Oh My Gosh