This past week I've had a few intellectual rushes. I wouldn't claim they came from me, or elevate them to the status of divine revelation or even of new ideas, but nonetheless for me they were lightbulb moments.
At Starbucks on Friday morning a group of us began the arduous but exciting journey of slowly discussing Karl Barth's 100+ page section of Church Dogmatics on the doctrine of election. (Did I ever mention what a nerd I am?) The main thing that came out was the Barth really wants to steer us from seeing Election merely from a human standpoint (i.e. God sends people to hell on purpose) and to see it first and foremost as God Electing God. In other words, God "decided" (however you conceptualize that decision taking place) to start this whole ball of wax and before we deal with why this or that thing has happened to us we have to get a handle on the fact that for some reason or another God put Himself, and us, in this position. God, in a sense, has defined Himself by Creating us, even though He was God before that. So to understand this God we must try to understand why He did that. I'm probably not doing the discussion justice. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that (as well as the interesting cast of characters who meet at Starbucks, including the Great One and the Dreaded Tony) in the future.
Another lightbulb turned on for me this morning when I realized that Theology is a humble task. We get this idea of scholarly theologians with swollen heads who just want to sit in ivory towers and tell everyone what to think. There is an element of truth to that of course, but the further I go in academia (at least among godly men and women) the more I see that when you pursue something like a doctorate you are really humbling yourself and deciding to submit the whole of your life in service to the Church and the world. The reason this is humbling is because you don't ever expect the Church or the world outside of your immediate supervisor (and whoever happens to be listening in class when you put up your hand) to hear about it! And by choosing to write a thesis, and then later maybe a doctoral dissertation you have to narrow the scope of your study to such a degree that you lose any hope of ever actually changing the world (which is what we all want to do right?) and virtually resign yourself to trying to "master" this or that tiny peice of the scholarly puzzle in the hope that as you do so maybe you can do some good, clarify the picture somewhat, or whatever.
It reminds me while I study to live, to love, and to continue to serve the Church both in my studies and outside of it. I have a new appreciation for scholars (the humble ones) and more confirmation that, like pastoring, I'm not so sure I'm up for it, but then again who really feels up for whatever peice of the puzzle (or to switch the metaphor, the body) that Christ calls them to add?
As my academic Dean said, some are called to be the brain, some the heart, and most of us are a fingernail or a nosehair. ALL are important, and all have their unique challenges which must be risen to for the sake of Christ, the Church and the world. And I'm fairly convinced that no matter what part of the body you are called to be you are always best off considering yourself a nose-hair, while doing your dangdest for God.