TEXAS FAITH: How did your faith shape -- or reshape -- you in 2011?
Source: Dallas Morning News
Published: Dec. 20, 2011
By William McKenzie
Let's take a break from thinking so hard about topical events and use this week to explain what religious insights you may have had this year that reshaped the way you view the world. Was it something you read? Experienced? Saw? Heard? If so, what touched you?
If nothing like that happened, don't worry. Just explain how you think your faith shaped the way you saw the world in 2011.
CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
One of the most significant religious insights I had in 2011 came while reading Annie Dillard's "Living By Fiction."
"Who will tell us the meaning of the raw universe?" she asks.
This question follows from her observation that you can find plenty of people who can talk a lot about "artifacts," but very few who will say something about "what we really want," Dillard explains. And what we really want is for someone to say something about everything.
Theologians should help us interpret the universe, says Dillard, but instead "they keep on saying the same hard words."
Since reading Dillard earlier this year, I think about what it would look like to say something about everything without speaking in a way that is "hard." I wonder if a secret to this might be always to remember that to try to say SOMETHING ABOUT EVERYTHING is very different from presuming to say EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING or, even, EVERYTHING ABOUT SOMETHING.
Religion that forgets the mystery and infinite character of its subject matter clearly does more harm than good. But what Dillard is pointing out is equally true: religion that is so stymied by mystery that it over-qualifies everything it stands for is worthless.
Dillard's question has reoriented me, as a theologian and as a Christian person. I'm always thinking to myself: "Now, what does this theological idea or teaching have to say about EVERYTHING?"
Along these lines, this year I have worked with renewed energy on the doctrine of the Trinity, exploring what it has to say about the default reality of all existence. In sum, the Trinity tells us that we exist as distinct individuals ("3") in union with one another ("1"), mutually affecting one another (a theological word for this is "perichoresis").
One of the interesting insights that comes with looking at who we are, in community, through a trinitarian lens is that our distinctions and our unity are not meant to be in conflict with one another. What does the doctrine of the Trinity say, then, about the meaning of the whole, raw universe? It says (among other things), that we are meant to be individuals-in-harmony with one another, reflecting the image of the God who is 3-in-1.
Blessings this Christmas!
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