Sometimes I think I should have been a Bible scholar.
I was raised fairly feminist for a Southern Baptist. My parents told me I could do anything I wanted and encouraged me in my path to become an engineer.
Yes, I could do anything…except go into the ministry. That was a thing for boys, boy who would walk confidently forward during the alter call and tell the pastor they had felt “the Call.”
The call to ministry was for men, unless I felt interested in leading children or women, which I did not, or practical things like feeding the hungry. All good and necessary things but what I hungered for was the esoteric—deep understanding of the Bible, history, and theology—a realm firmly and always for men. (It’s interesting to note that the only women I remember going forward for “the Call” were to be missionaries, never because they felt called into women or children’s ministry. I don’t know if you were even allowed to go forward for that.)
I’m not a Bible scholar. I am an engineer, and I love my job and my career path, so I don’t anticipate a job change. But one of the reasons for this blog is to ponder and study what I feel led to—whether it’s the practical or esoteric.
For those of us, though, who are not Bible scholars, I feel like we often fall into one of two camps about the deep esoteric theological discussions. (1) It doesn’t affect your day to day faith so why does it matter at all? (2) The deep questions trouble us so we avoid them lest we find out something that would make us contemplate God differently from how we want. (There is a third option—we think we know everything already and for us there is no mystery in God or the Word. This position is mind boggling to me, so I won’t address it.)
I get this. What does it matter if predestination or free-will is the truth in my day to day life? I still feel as if I have to pick out my own socks, so every day I will pick out my own socks. The answer to the question doesn’t affect how I live my life.
On the other hand, contemplating the question makes us uncertain and when simplified in the way those of us who are layman can understand, makes us afraid of what we might discover. If everything is predestined what does this say about God’s character? If everything is free-will what does this say about God’s sovereignty?
(It should be noted that the predestination/free will debate is merely an example and not all inclusive of the esoteric questions that exist. It should also be noted that these questions way over simplify this debate and complete ignore the concept that God is outside of time and space, but that is a post for another time.)
For some reason, when someone not Called into the ministry or academia starts asking these questions people immediately assume you’re “doubting.” They assume that either you are currently in doubt and seeking answers OR that seeking answers to esoteric questions will lead to doubt. (I find the latter particularly troubling since it seems to indicate our faith does not hold up in the face of study.)
For me at least this is not the case.
I always wanted to be an astrophysicist (which I'm not, I chose the more practical path of engineering, but that is neither here nor there). Two of my favorite classes in college focused on Planetary Science and Space Plasma Physics. I have a desire to see how things work, to understand the natural laws that govern our existence, to marvel at the beauty of the math that holds everything together.
Theology is no different.
For whatever reason God chose not to reveal Himself in a way that is crystal clear to our modern minds. Our Bible is a collection of books of different genres and not a clear and straightforward textbook on theology. Why is this? We can talk about the limitations God imposed on himself by using men to write his holy book. We can talk about Jesus and how he chose to reveal himself to the disciples, the way he couched his words. But I think God knows us, he knows our nature.
He gave us mysteries to be wrestled with because we are like puppies who need a bone to gnaw on to keep us occupied. Because we are by nature curious and seeking creatures, instead of giving us a straightforward toy, God gave us a Rubik’s Cube.
I think of the mystery of theology similarly to how I think of a Rubik’s Cube. I have never been able to solve one on my own. But I believe the cube has a solution. I have faith it can be solved. But I’m also not satisfied with someone showing me how to do it. I must figure it out for myself.
Does this sometimes lead to frustration? Yes. Does this sometimes to lead to doubt? Maybe, I know I’ve doubted that Rubik’s Cubes actually have solutions sometimes. But at my heart even when expressing frustrations and doubt, I believe there is a solution, and I believe God gave this cube to me so I can play and wrestle with it—not so I can put it on a shelf and ignore it.
My theology is not a porcelain doll which can only be looked at and never played with lest it break. It is a rough and tumble Rubik’s Cube that I can drop down the stairs, disassemble, reassemble, and still have the same toy that I know has a solution even if in my life I never find it.