The first disorienting situation Alice encountered down the rabbit hole was the corridor with many locked doors of different sizes. And the only one she could find a key for was too small for her to get through.
Which is a little like how I feel as I size up the summons implied in my gradually dawning recognition that right theology must open out onto right worship.
Basically, I feel like I’m way too big to get where I want to go.
Where I want to go is deeper than either merely cramming people’s heads with more information (the right answers, good theology, a Christian worldview etc) or simply giving people advice about how to lift their game spiritually or transform their lives.
Now it ‘s not that I’m opposed to good, solid gospel-centred theology and an integrated Christian worldview. I’d be the last person to suggest this!
And I also know that the best accounts of Christian theology and worldview-thinking conceive of these things less as a pre-loaded encyclopaedia of right answers to every question or situation we might face and more as a way of seeing things that has at its centre Jesus and the defining stories (e.g., creation and fall, Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfilment, resurrection and new creation) and symbols (e.g., the cross, the body of Christ, etc) of our faith.
Likewise, I’m a huge fan of life-transformation. I’ve grown and benefited heaps from having older, wiser heads advise me or share tips that help me lift my game spiritually. And I could tell you lots of stories about times when it’s been doing something that I know is right that’s sort of ‘led’ my heart into right attitudes and beliefs.
But like I say, I want to go deeper than that. Because — as I know not only from observation but also from personal experience — it’s all too easy to know all the right answers (and even write high mark-earning theology papers about them) and yet have an harbour sin in your life. And I also know that moral reformation can be a fig leaf for an unbelieving heart (like Tim Keller often says, the gospel demands we repent of our ‘righteousness’ as well as our sin).
Worse, it’s even possible to get so wrapped up in being right that you end up a whole lot more like the Pharisee than the Tax Collector in Jesus’ parable. (And we know which one of them went home in the right with God, don’t we?)
All of which is to say I want to lead people into believing, trusting, loving and surrendering to God. Which is exactly where right theology is supposed to take us, I think.
But narrow is the door — and few enter into it.
And I’m constantly wrestling with the fact that I find I’m still too big to fit through — let alone lead others through.
I’m too wrapped up in my own stuff. My own sense of entitlement (“the universe owes me”) and self-importance. My own desperate desire to be right. whether it’s because I like the attention and kudos of being the expert with all the answers or because ticking these boxes plays in to my own inner craving for control and having it ‘all figured out’.
I guess I need a dose of the spiritual equivalent of whatever was in that bottle labelled ‘DRINK ME’ that Alice stumbled upon…