Theology is about declaring mysteries. The great mysteries of the human heart, of the natural world, and the greatest mystery, the Source of it all.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children.
I teach a class on theology. Thinking about how to do it well, my great fear is that I will fall short of showing how wonderful God is. That I will fail to show my students “the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord, and the wonderful works he has done” (Psalm 78:4).
How can I do God justice? How can I show others how great and good he is? How can I explain him and unfold his ways?
I feel like someone James would speak to, saying, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:1-2).
Yes, I stumble in many ways, especially with what I say. Although I feel confident in my calling as a teacher, I know I’m a flawed teacher. Sometimes, I’m really weak at teaching, leaving my students weary, stressed, or–worst of all–bored! Why does this happen?
I fail my students when I try to explain too much. I want to see everything, and I want my students to see everything, too. But it’s too much. Too much to know, too much to absorb. As with many things, when it comes to teaching, oftentimes, less is more.
So, what if theology is not about explaining everything? How can I, anyway? After all, it’s God we’re talking about.
What if, instead, theology is not first and foremost about understanding, but about believing? Like the ancient Christians said, “faith seeking understanding.” It’s not about uncovering all the mysteries, or answering all the riddles, so that we can then believe. Not “understanding so that I can believe,” but “believing so that I can understand.”
We don’t start by solving all the mysteries, but by entering into them. Before we can become wise, we must become like children, eager to learn, ready to believe (Prov. 1:7).
And, as a teacher, I don’t need to solve all the mysteries for my students, but to faithfully declare them.
A Theology Teacher’s Prayer
Dearest Lord, help me to recount your praiseworthy deeds and your power, and the wonderful works you have done. Help me to remember and to declare the mysteries of ancient times. So that we might put our trust in God and have faith in your wonderful works.