Thursday, September 3, 2009

Writing papers is like running ...

… it doesn’t matter how good you once were, take three months off and you will be out of shape.

Last night I sat down to write my first paper of the semester. My Systematic Theology professor asked us to write a four-page paper on our understanding of the task of theology. I don’t think she was expecting us to make any profound revelations; rather she wanted to just get us thinking about what theology is beyond simply, “the study of God.”

I’m going to start off by saying (and by way of my grumpiness as I tried to write Bruce can attest to this) that my paper writing skills are painfully out of shape. I stared at the dreaded blinking cursor for about 25 minutes before I finally just wrote my name just so I would feel better about myself.

In the end, I finished the paper (and when I say “in the end” I mean “after I watched two episodes of NCIS, took a 30 minute shower, ate five pieces of chocolate, tried to explain to Lilly why she wasn’t being helpful by sitting on my notes, gave up for the night, woke up and watched an hour of the Today Show”). I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly proud of it, but it met its requirements, it’s turned in and I know I’ve written worse in my lifetime.

I wonder, however, if it was the mere task of writing a paper that was holding me up or if it was the subject matter. How easy is it really to define the task of theology? The assignment seemed so simple when I first heard it – I’ve been studying theology for the past six years, after all.

Easier said than done.

I don’t think that theology can (or should) be constricted to a definition or task. I think giving it definitive parameters inhibits what theology can do and the potential is has to work in the lives of individuals.

In the end, I decided to propose that the task of theology was threefold. First, theology attempts to make sense of extreme situations, most notably times of tragedy and loss. Second, theology serves to look for the revelation of God in the every day, in the ordinary and in those around you. Finally, theology allows humans to constantly redefine their role and purpose in the world in conjunction with their understanding of the divine.

Take that, add 1100 other words of examples and ways to connect the three tasks and you’ve essentially got my paper.

When I got to class this afternoon, my professor attempted to give us her own understanding of the task of theology. She said, “Theology incorporates all that human beings think and do.”

Okay … but what does that mean?  Somehow I'm not sure she really had a good answer herself.  I'm not sure anyone really does.

I think it was a trick question.

(p.s. feel free to comment with your own ideas … I promise my paper is turned in and your thoughts will not be reproduced or rebroadcast in any way)


  1. I'm not sure I'd remember what side of the paper to write my name! I admire you for going back to school. I did take a 10 course, 2 year bible school, but the year I started they went completely to correspondence instead of on campus - so I did it all from home. It was hard getting back into the swing of things and doing it all with kids around. Hope it all comes back to you and you get in the swing of things. That or buy more chocolate :o)

  2. OMG, the purpose of the box is threefold!


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