It’s been a while since my last post and whilst a big part of that is down to moving, I no longer live in London, the real reason is that I’ve been at something of a low ebb since then. Moving took me out of my church and forced me to attempt to find a new one, which has dredged up a lot of baggage I’ve been carrying around since the fallout of my time in the discernment process.
Every week for the last 3 months, sans sickness, we’ve tried a new church and the only thing I can say after having done so is that my theology is still largely Anglican. I miss communion, and the theology that surrounds it, I miss the creeds and the liturgy and the catholicity. I like the sense of beauty and rootedness that often surrounds the buildings. The sheer range of variety you see in independent churches makes it hard to feel like you are part of something much bigger and they are sometimes very visibly blown about by whatever new wind of doctrine seems to be sweeping the Anglosphere. Despite that, in my mind, the love has gone from the Church of England and that can be hard when one otherwise finds an individual parish church attractive.
At the moment we are torn between a local Anglican church and a small FIEC church. Both feel like compromises, to be honest, but I just want somewhere where I can belong for a bit, and not be too involved. Which has been hard in smaller churches whenever a minister clocks a young family with two theologically literate parents. Do you lie or omit, when asked, about the level of involvement you had in previous churches? No and yet the only place something like this doesn’t happen is in larger churches which often increasingly copy the American megachurch model which I cannot stand.
But, to be honest, even reading theology or church history has become difficult. I just don’t have the reserves for it anymore. I can read scripture, and pray, and we have started a catechism with our oldest. Yet I’m increasingly of the view that laity shouldn’t bring upon themselves the heartache of reading theology or trying to become actively engaged in questions of liturgy or ecclesiology – it only introduces the potential for disagreement and disharmony in the body. For the first time I genuinely understand those people who throw their hands up in the air and become Roman Catholic so they don’t have to think about these things anymore. I’m not in any danger of that but I’ve come to dread Sundays having become so unsettled since moving.
Related to this is that we’ve been blessed with some neighbours who are Christian in our new home. They have a little boy the same age as ours too. When talking with them about Churches they asked me what my ideal church looked like – and it’s hard to say because I tend to think hypotheticals always have limited utility but in the spur of the moment I blurted out ‘something like a Lutheran church I guess’. I’ve never attended a Lutheran church, I’m not sure I’ve even met a Lutheran in person, and even then if I did I would have quibbles or qualms but that was where my mind fell-upon in that moment. Maybe that’s genuinely where I’m at, maybe I was constructing ecclesial cathedrals in the sky and putting misappropriate labels upon them. I don’t know.
Likewise, when I was asked an equivalent question by a minister about what I was looking for in a Church I answered somewhere that would help me ground my children in the faith and nurture them. I’m not so concerned for myself – rather for them. The minister challenged me that I should look for a church that upholds the activities described in Acts 2:42. I agreed but the minister couldn’t name the verse he referred to and, more importantly, couldn’t recall all the three things listed there. This to me outlined the problem – there aren’t many churches that actually do those three things consistently nor regularly. I also think if we take that verse literally there’s an argument to be had for weekly communion – which neither that minister nor many others I’ve met are keen on. The internet has ruined me in this regard – it’s made accessible a great number of resources, all of which seem seldom attainable outside of the hyperreality of larping on the internet.
The children’s catechism question I am working on with my son this week is:
Q: ‘What does the law of God require’?
A: ‘That we love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love our neighbour as ourselves
When I think about loving the Lord with all my mind in particular I am reminded of Job when he confessed ‘Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.’ Maybe I need to repent, maybe I need to sit in silence before the Lord for a time. Instead of reading, I’ve taken to pottering, tinkering. My fingers are better spent getting dirt under their nails and being clasped in prayer than turning pages or typing. It doesn’t address where I’ll end up on a Sunday but it’s all I can do for now.
I don’t know if I’ll come back to this blog or not. It’s not that I want to stop, it’s more I have nothing left to say at this point in time.
2 thoughts on “The dangers of reading theology”
I’ll miss you good buddy. May God bless you & yours during this season.
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proof reading a PhD for someone I found myself here, but it seems like it is a bit too late… The laity should absolutely read theology and church history – “Yet I’m increasingly of the view that laity shouldn’t bring upon themselves the heartache of reading theology or trying to become actively engaged in questions of liturgy or ecclesiology – it only introduces the potential for disagreement and disharmony in the body.” How else can the congregation engage? Argue, chew on the meaty pieces, etc., keep their minister en pointe.
Disharmony may only happen if on hearing “something” it is used in gossip rather than productive critique.
Also in my opinion there are 4 things in Acts 2:42 – 1. to the apostles’ teaching and 2. to fellowship,3. to the breaking of bread and 4. to prayer.