I’m wrapping up a very compact two week summer term at seminary and as I pause to take stock of my learning and formation to date, and, in particular, what I’ve gathered and incorporated these past two weeks, I cannot help but hear over and over some wise words my mother stole from Matthew 7:3-5–
3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your neighbor,
b ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
No, my mother was not a Biblical scholar who ran around the house quoting Matthew, but she was fond of reminding me to take the “log” out of my own eye when I seemed to be stuck on something or unable to find the answer to something that she thought was so obvious.
So, apparently, I have spent the last two weeks removing a rather substantial forest of logs from both my left and my right eye, and maybe a few from my ears as well. You see, this summer I have learned something very interesting. Theology, after all, is not a dirty word. You would think that as someone who chose to go to seminary and who chose to go seminary without any real vocational goal in mind I would naturally be someone who wanted to read the work of the great theologians of our faith. But no, I have always been more of a sola scriptura (scripture alone) kind of a girl (one of the five solas of the Reformation), hence my reason for the late in life discovery that I really always had been a Baptist no matter where I actually had worshiped.
Spending two weeks discussing theological concepts in the context of other disciplines — music, literature, theater, education, Biblical studies and mission — has led me to the discovery that it was really time to do some serious lumber-jacking on that log in my eye. And yesterday, when it occurred to me that Christian theological texts were nothing more offensive to Scripture than Midrash is to the Tanakh, I felt that log roll forth and continue its journey down to the sawmill. It was a two-fold release: first, it required me to understand that of course I would never accept ANY theological text as an authority, since I may be a “different kind of Baptist”and I clearly do not accept the Apostolic Succession as a governing principle in church life; and second, as our wide-ranging discussions of these two weeks let me see that, basically, any time we talk about God and our relationship to God we are talking about theology. I have read Barth, Guttierez and more, and talked about God. I have sung hymns and talked about God. I have read August Wilson and talked about God. I have looked at bumper stickers and talked about God. I have been doing theology all week. I have been talking about God.
The problem with that log in your eye is that it really does block your vision — the vision of your eye AND the vision of your soul. Once removed, my vision led me to marvelous things in the library that I have never found because I just would not use that word, “theology”. Silly me. I should listen to my mother more often.