I am all for reason and good sense in their proper place. Reason is, no doubt, a divinely-endowed capacity; but of course, the same God who created logic also created magic. Our primary calling is to be led by the Spirit, not to be led by logic necessarily.
Often there is no contradiction between the two. But God is mysterious, and "His ways are not our ways." Sometimes, if things don't make sense, it may very well be an indication that we're on the right track.
Max defines systematic, in part, as "how we study." This is true, and largely self-evident: we all tend to things in a more or less linear fashion. (If you doubt this, consider the route you take the next time you drive to town.) I am not however speaking primarily of the process of pursuing God, but rather the picture we are developing in the darkroom of our minds: what is our concept of God and the supernatural? Is God like a frog we dissect for 7th grade science? I think not.
One might suggest the analogy of a mountain. A mountain is not a product of calculation or imagination, it is just there; solidly and stubbornly there. As you repeatedly return to it and explore its paths and precipices, you realize that it is entirely other, an independent and robust reality that dwarfs your attempts to conquer it as if it were a mound of rubble in your backyard.
It is austere - awfully so. And yet it may become in a sense familiar; you recognize its shape and shadow, and you may well begin to learn the safest and surest ways of traversing its bulk. But you will never "figure it out," for the moment you begin to, it will whip up a biting squall and send you scurrying back down looking for a hot meal and a bed.
There is a vast difference between what we mean when we speak of "getting to know someone" and what we mean when we speak of "figuring something out." You can "figure out" a frog (a dead one, at least). But you "get to know," and that only very slowly, a mountain.
Max is correct in guessing that my main complaint against "systematicism" is its apparent claim to explain God exhaustively. He joins me in repudiating this idea (an exhaustive theology) and then goes on to provide several "systematic" examples. These examples are fine, though they seem to me more "logical" or "sensible" than "systematic."
"Systematic" - to me - implies a watertight inter-relationship - a concrete congruency - between all facets of the faith, while "logical" simply means that God designed the universe in such a way that 2 + 2 = 4. (Unless you're adding cream puffs: for some strange reason I always seem to wind up with only three.)
I am not saying we shouldn't have theological threads of real strength and substance, I am only protesting the viability of weaving them all into a seamless fabric to pull over the eyes of heretics and atheists. Atheists need fewer arguments, not more.
Max draws a cunning distinction between "contradictory" and "paradoxical," which I gladly accept. (In the line I quoted concerning Hobbits, I believe Tolkien was using the term "contradictions" in a "paradoxical" sense.) In the end, it does not seem to me that a comprehensively systematic theology would have much use for either.
It goes without saying that we desire to apprehend and appreciate the character and person of God as much as possible. But we must move beyond the facts and into the wonder. I do not suppose any of us would describe a lover like a robot or race car: "She's 5 feet 9-3/4 inches, with brown hair, blue eyes, and a birthmark under her nose." Sometimes we talk as if all that interested us was God's driver's license.
So I say my love is the fairest among ten thousand, and the systematicist responds, "Did you count?"
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