What OTHERS think of the Theology Books We Write {with thanks to T.E. Hanna & Peter Enns}

I borrow once again from T.E. Hanna’s great Of Dust and Kings blog who, in turn, borrowed from Peter Enns’ blog over on Patheos.  I think it’s a funny, poignant turn on what God thinks of the theology books we write (and can be extrapolated to pretty much any theological writing in my humble opinion).  As I was reading the following “exchange” though, a few thoughts came to mind which I’ll share later.  But, we begin with Peter Enns’ work:

What we think of the theology books we write:

Well, I’ve worked for years on this, and I have to say I think I nailed it. It’s not perfect, but I am sure this will be a lasting contribution to thinking Christians everywhere. It’s a thoughtful piece that raises many pressing, indeed, perennial issues, that have not been addressed quite as clearly as I do here.

You’re welcome.

What God thinks (as told through dramatic metaphor):

Five year old: Daddy, do you like my picture?

Father: [Dear God, if there is a God, have mercy on me and tell me what this random series–if series is even the right word–of lines and squiggles is supposed to be. Please. Help. Me.] Ah….woooooow! That’s A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

Five Year Old: Can you tell what it is? [no clue what’s happening]

Father: [Merciful and Almighty God. I do not know what this is. Either tell me or make it stop. I will promise you anything.] Of COURSE. Yeah. It’s a cccaaaa….

Five Year Old: [slightly puzzled but not discouraged] It’s a reindeer in a boat.

Father: [Capricious God, was I asking too much? A little help. Still, not too bad. Damage control time.] Sure. Here are the antlers…and look…it’s nose…and there is the outboard motor…..and that’s the water, right?

Five Year Old: That’s the sail.

Father: [A sail? Why didn’t you warn me to leave well enough alone?] Oh, riiiight.. The sail.

Five Year Old: Isn’t that a great picture, Dad.

Father: It’s beAUTiful. I love it. And everyone else who sees it will love it, too. Let’s hang it up on the fridge to make sure everyone sees it. Everyone needs to see this picture of a …reindeer…in a boat….

Five Year Old: ….with a sail.

+++++

Sounds about right, don’t you think (especially to those of us who’ve lived through five-year-olds).  Eerily accurate from God’s perspective too, if I may venture.  But I was thinking as I’m reading this, “what would another five-year-old think of the picture?” After all, that’s their peers, their brothers, their “audience”.   So I made up my own metaphor to illustrate:

What OTHERS think:

Billy: What’cha drawing?

Bobby: (holds up the picture) See?

Billy: Whoa! Nice reindeer!  And what’s he in? A Viking ship?

Bobby: (who drew a boat but likes the “Viking ship” idea even better) Uh . . . uh, yeah! Yeah, a Viking ship! See the . . .

Billy: The sail! Cool!  I like the dragon on the front of the sail, too.  What’s he holding?

Bobby: The, uh . . . the dragon?

Billy: Yeah!

Bobby: Uh . . . A flaming sword and, uh . . .a, uh . . . hammer!

Billy: I knew it! Cool!  You’re good at those!  I wanna draw one, too.  Got anymore paper?

Bobby: Yeah! Here’s my crayons! I’m gonna draw ‘nuther one too! But bigger!

Billy: Yeah, with guns!

Bobby: Yeah, bazookas!!

Both boys, together: COOL!!

Jennifer: What are you boys drawing?

Both boys: (covering their papers and hunching away) nuthin’ . . .

+++

I think God (the father figure) would still look at this exchange between the two boys (his children) with tolerance, patience, and maybe a little bit of parental pride.  Even though, to him, the drawings (writings) may be infantile and formless, they mean something to his children.

In fact . . . they’re very important to his children.

Who knows what sparks of creativity, what flashes of learning and understanding, may be ignited by a “random series of squiggles”.  Bobby may grow up to be another Picasso some day (or C.S. Lewis).  Billy may grow up to be a great Norse historian (or Hebrew theologian).  Jennifer, (even though she’ll never understand boys), may grow up to be a great artist to her own audience (“The Power of a Praying Mother”, anyone?).

Even Enns’ exchange above shows a loving, tolerant parent who doesn’t stifle the creativity of his child simply because it’s too base.  He (God) understands that, while it may have been created for his benefit (or His glory), it’s also just as much for the child.  Beneficial.  Necessary.  Beautiful (in its own childish way).

He knows full well the other children will probably get it: Possibly sparking everyone’s creativity . . . to the ultimate praise and glory of the Parent.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~ Philippians 4:13

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~ Ephesians 2:10

You descendants of Jacob, should it be said, “Does the LORD become impatient? Does he do such things?  Do not my words do good to the one whose ways are upright? ~ Micah 2:7

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ ~ Matthew 25:21

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20 (Msg)

So by all means, keep writing dear children . . . and drawing!

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