Monthly Archives: November 2016

If you have spent any time in theological discussions on the Internet or elsewhere, you have probably noticed that people have a tendency to pit one verse in the Bible against another when defending their theological system of choice. They lavish great attention on those passages that support their view while talking around or glossing over biblical texts that go against the doctrinal grain of their system.

That is the reality. However, it raises an important question: Why is this such a common occurrence? That question would not even be necessary if the unbalanced treatment of holy writ were done by people who regard the Bible as only a literary work of men and nothing more. Yes, if those individuals did such a thing, it would not be surprising. What we so often encounter, however, is the opposite: people who hold to the inspiration of all of Scripture—not just parts of it—but who, in spite of that belief, treat some parts of the corpus of holy writ with less attention, devotion, and acceptance than other parts.

The answer to that question is readily available if we recognize the lure of total, all-encompassing comprehension. I for one am convinced that the above mentioned unbalanced, dishonest handling of Scripture is the direct result of our natural need to fully comprehend all mysteries. We are not satisfied with mystery and paradox; our reason bucks and kicks at such things with the stubbornness of a mule. Consequently, we latch onto one theological system with all our might, a set of doctrines that seem to tie up all the loose ends, eliminate all mysteries, and ward off that dreaded monster, Paradox. We long for something that is neatly tied up, something we feel answers all the questions, solves all the riddles, and completely covers the sheer vastness of Holy Scripture. Viewing our theological system as the pinnacle of truth and the perfect sum of theological knowledge provides deep, incredible comfort, because then we can feel that our doctrinal search is over and we have finally tied up all those pesky loose ends.

That can provide a good deal of peace, but I think that more often than not, it’s a false peace. The problem is that any theological system is ultimately man-made. It is a fallible human attempt to understand Scripture thoroughly, and as with any man-made system, it has blind spots; that is, it is severely limited by its inability to lasso the many different teachings of Scripture into the confines of its doctrinal corral. It’s like trying to wrap our arms around one of the giant redwood trees in California: Embracing the full circumference of that arboreal giant is a vain hope. Likewise, trying to capture all of Scripture within the confines of a man-made system is equally hopeless. It’s the finite trying to wrap its mental arms around the infinite. Consequently, it is unable to cover the sheer vastness and depth of revelation, and so it cannot deal adequately with those scripture passages that go against it.

What then must we do? We must embrace both sides of a theological issue as mystery and paradox rather than be out of balance and embrace one side to the exclusion of the other. When we are able to do that, then we are the greatest of theologians, because it is only then that we will treat all parts of Scripture with the respect and attention they deserve.

About the Author

The author of this blog, Jeremy (Jehanne), is a Catholic who strives to think God's thoughts after Him and obey Christ's exhortation to take up the cross daily and follow Him on the way to Golgotha. He likes reading theology, evangelizing, and, of course, writing.