Good Theology Saves

I read. All sorts and types of things. I read people who agree with me, people who disagree with me, people who almost or mostly do one or the other.

I read for work. The Bible, I hope obviously; liturgies and about them; sermons, my own and others; theology; social and political commentary; current events; and anything else that will make me think, make me stretch, help me better understand people, help me better articulate a faith which is beyond words.

I read for fun (and sanity). Fiction—most often science fiction, but also mysteries, horror (it has be really good), and whatever else I find and enjoy. Poetry because I fall in love with a well-turned phrase. Memoirs because I love learning about how others experience their lives.

I read.

Right now, in this season of my life, a season with more than a little grief, a time when it is challenging to remain optimistic, I’m reading for a new reason. I’m reading for hope. I’ve survived tough times before. Often enough that I sometimes thing that between all of the fingerprints, hand impressions, and nail troughs I have made trying to hang on to faith, hope, and love, I should have gotten better at it. More dextrous. More able to secret away the right-sized portion to sustain me.

Instead I’m bookmarking my way through hope. Literally bookmarking my way through Jurgen Moltman’s Theology of Hope. Underlining passages and scribbling notes on my bookmark. I am a thorough reader.

As I work to pastor and serve my congregation through change, trying to bring to our times together the right combination of my very real grief and the eternal reassurance that nothing is lost in God, I need someone else to remind me of those things.

I need the voice of Moltmann, a German theologian, alive but only real to me through words on the pages in front of me. I need him to remind me that God, while keeping us firmly in the present, calls us into a hope and a future that leave all Christians disquieted. I need to be reminded, in the midst of my now, that “hope casts [me] upon the future that is not yet.” (pg 26)

Because hope is hard. It is hard, in the face of the loss and grief which are so common in this world, to continue to stand on the eternal reassurance of God’s promises. It is hard, after the kind of long day which leaves one feeling empty to rise the next morning ready to praise and serve.

And it is harder yet to continue to believe that these things are necessary, that they are the actions of faith. That they are hopeful. But they are. And even though I know this, I still need Moltmann’s word to remind me that, “Faith and love are timeless acts which remove us out of time, because they make us wholly ‘present’.” (pg 30)

The joy of a book is that it will be wholly present to you just as you need it be. So no one minds as I make my way through Theology of Hope far more slowly than I usually read, savoring the words, sustaining myself on the reminders that hope is not only worth holding onto, but still being held out for me to grab. Right now, Moltmann and his Theology of Hope is saving me.

This post is one of many for Provoketive’s synchroblog on Hope.  Please go read my fellow writer’s reflections, stories, and hopes here.

Posted by

An Anglican/Episcopal priest, bibliophile, dog owner, and Montanan

3 thoughts on “Good Theology Saves

  1. Good theology does save (well, actually Christ uses good theology, to save.

    But I do like the fact that our bad theology, where it rears it’s ugly head, is not a barrier to the love and forgiveness of Christ.

    Thanks for an interesting and thoughtful post.

  2. I wonder how many clergy read science fiction as their relaxation reading? It’s my principal form of fiction reading, as well. (Followed, also, by mysteries.) Is there a connection between having a theological bent and a fondness for SF? I wonder…

  3. If seminary was any indication, there is a strong connection between SF and theology. A large number of my class and those from nearby classes read at least some SF. I think that it has something to do with SF being a great medium for asking the same questions theology poses in a more relaxed manner.

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