Embracing Mystery

Above is a graph on XKCD. It is described as  A webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language.
You can visit this specific comic at https://xkcd.com/1991/

The graph is meant to be humourous but also reasonable. It looks at areas of study based on two spectra— How big is the things studied, and what is the quantity of the things studied.

Theology is placed quite correctly. It seeks to study God… and that which is created by God. That is pretty big— arguably there could be nothing bigger. For the second axis,  Quantity, I might be tempted to change the label to Mystery. To what extent are we delving into things beyond our understanding versus addressing areas of study that already have well-worn paths.  If one understands theology as the biggest and most tentative/mysterious of fields, then the “God of the Gaps” theory sort of breaks down. It would be more accurate to say “Science (or Empiricism) of the Gaps.”

For some, this seems wrong. Theology is often taught in repetition of dogma. Theology is small and well-structured and defined. This is understandable. After all, to study what is beyond our comprehension and experience, requires (I believe) the presumption that the infinite and ineffable has at times in history intentionally broken into the finite and mundane and revealed itself to us. Thus, a major aspect of theology is to look back at such revelations. As a Christian, I certainly see the incarnation of Christ as central. All other revelations (with the possible exception of the Creation) hold a 2nd position at best.

At the same time, theology, as a thoroughly human endeavor and construct, should alway be entered into with humility and a certain tentativeness.

When we have all of the answers… we are almost certainly missing the most important answers, and perhaps the most important questions.


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