Discovering Tegu: The Next Generation in Blocks

7 02 2010

I discovered a new toy: blocks!

When I was a kid, blocks looked something like this:

They were simple and easy to use. And. while we enjoyed them, we all knew Legos were better. In fact, as a kid, I remember think blocks were pretty boring and stupid (and not colorful and plastic).

So, why sell these boring toys? They’d been around for ages… kids played with them before plastic with all its wonderful colors was invented. Plus, they’re hardy – they last a lot longer. Still. . . I was kid. They were dull.

Then, a few years ago, a lot of adult friends started purchasing… blocks! Ok, well, technically they’re planks:

These are Keva planks. They look pretty awesome, right? The thing that made these different was precision. These planks are milled to be highly precise – perfect 90 degree angles, exact length and width for each one. This means they balance better. You can stack them end to end pretty high. It’s impressive. A new take on an old toy.

Well, I thought that was about as innovative as plain old blocks could get. Until I discovered the newest version:

These are Tegu. Notice they’re doing something blocks shouldn’t be able to do? They’re defying gravity! That’s because they have magnets inside. Pretty awesome. They’re also sold out at the moment.

So, what’s the point of this evolution of blocks? It makes me think of the evolution of theology. First, we start out simple and plain. Then we add a little color, some nuances. Eventually, we refine it to a precise set. See, we couldn’t do that before because we just didn’t have the technology to cut it so precisely (the archeological, sociological, historical, literary advances that allow us to cut with more precision).

Now, it seems like we’re learning how to put magnets in our theology. We’re making it do things it never did before. It’s kinda scary. And it goes against everything we think we know. It starts doing things like saying races are equal… and women can preach… and maybe homosexuals can marry. We’re seeing theology developed to support things we never imagined it could.

I don’t know where this takes us. Are Tegu magnetic blocks still blocks? Are they just re-defining how blocks act? How far do we have to go to lose the name “block”? Are Legos blocks? For my part, I respect what people are doing with theology. They’re trying to keep the value and still make it work for our modern, media-distracted, plastic-toy loving society. Sure, sometimes we’ll get it wrong. But at least we’re trying.


February: Faith, hope, and love

1 02 2010

Woot! Got to celebrate – today marks the beginning of Soul Theology’s second month. Sure, I had a one week lapse, but I made it and feel like I’m beginning to get an idea where this is headed. It’s not much, but celebrating the little milestones is an excellent motivator.

I recently read Ellen Charry‘s article found in Essentials of Christian Theology, compiled by Placher.

This short article explicates a model of Christian living from the book of 1 Corinthians. “Christianity is more than a set of beliefs and more than a set of practices. It is a window on the world that comes from beyond the world and reaches beyond the world as we know it. Christianity cannot be understood or lived out apart from a community” (264).

She talks about the “wisdom of the cross” as standing over and against earthly wisdom. Also, the “mind of Christ” is living for God and others. Then she goes on to the details of “sex, idolatry, and table manners”. Finally, love and spiritual gifts.

After this, she summarizes reasons we have a hard time truly trusting God: it is unnatural, an enormous undertaking, and others may laugh at us. She succinctly summarizes, “Christians . . . live from faith rather than fear, hope rather than despair, love rather than ambition.” (280)

I think her concluding sentence reveals an excellent exposition on “faith, hope and love”. Somehow, by viewing the entire book in light of that phrase, she discovers what that faith, hope, and love stand in opposition to: worldly values and wisdom. May we all live without fear, despair, and ambition.

The Guilty Dog

30 01 2010

Coming home after a dinner out, my dog met me at the door cowering. She had her tail tucked between her legs, her head low to the ground, and a quiver ran through her. I knew she’d done something wrong even though I couldn’t see it.

I walked in and found she’d jumped up on the counter to tear into a loaf of bread. That’s it. Yes, it’s wrong. It happened once before and she got into a lot of trouble. I even thought I had made it impossible by taking the chair away that she jumped up on.

I picked up the loaf, held it towards her and said, “No. That’s bad. No.” I didn’t yell. Honestly, I was a little exasperated that my fresh loaf of high quality bread was destroyed, but I wasn’t angry. If anything, I was just thinking about how I could train her. I don’t want to just lock it up – I want her to be properly trained to not steal food. I want to be able to trust her.

She felt so guilty. She cowered under a chair. I didn’t yell or spank, I just cleaned up the mess. Then I pulled out the computer. Twenty minutes later I realized she was still cowering. I called out “Come!” and she was so very happy.  Then, I knew.

I knew that this was so like us with God. We know we’re wrong. We do it anyway. God tells us we’re wrong and picks up after us. He chooses how to teach us. He wants to be able to trust us to obey. We cower in fear, hiding ourselves or our sins, until he calls out to forgive us and reassure us. When he does, we’re ecstatic.

This is daily theology: seeing the truths of the Bible manifest in normal daily events.

The Value of Bad Theology

21 01 2010

A few days ago, I was talking to a friend about his experience starting seminary this year. He’s been a worship leader for quite a while now, and commented on how seminary is changing his perception of worship songs.

I knew precisely what he was talking about. Seminary teaches you to think more critically about your faith, the church, Scripture, God, and especially what we teach about God and our relationship to him. It’s a good thing – it’s precisely the way church leaders need to start thinking about things.

Then, if you start looking at the songs we see in church, there seems to be a lot lacking. Some songs focus too much on the individual worshiper, while others seem to imply that God needs us / we’re helping him. My friend noted one thing that bothered him that a worship leader said:

“Alright, everyone! Let’s worship! You know, God said that where two or three are gathered, there he is with us. Here we are, we’re gathered, so God is here with us!”

Why would this bother my friend? Simple, the verse is talking about discipline within the church, not worship or prayer as is often mis-quoted. If you want to understand this better, check out an old blog I found. I don’t know the writer, but I know he’s dead on with this post about Matt. 18:20.

As my friend and I lamented the proliferation of bad theology, we suddenly commented simultaneous: But we’ve done it in the past. We’ve been the people who say those things and, honestly, we’ll probably do it again. And again.

In the end, we’re never going to get it completely right. And even those things we know, we’ll sometimes get those wrong too. So we need to have grace for others, while not lessening the value of seeking the truth.

Finally, my professor, Dr. Marianne Meye Thompson, who has an amazing way of encapsulating the truth, reminded us, “People are saved by bad theology every day.” She also reminded us we were all heretics, but I’ll save that for another day.