Woah. That’s too much.
A couple weeks ago, my friend Jonathan was in my town on business. We invited him over for dinner and enjoyed catching up, laughing and talking while we ate dinner. Dinner table conversation is underrated, in my view. I think it’s one of the most important ways we build each other up as disciples.
Jonathan and I have had deep conversations about our faith over frozen yogurt, coffee at church, and during dinner. We share questions and what we’re reading that helps inform our journey in faith. Recently he’s asked some questions about the history of the Church and after dinner, I went over to my bookshelf and pulled a couple books down for him. That’s when he laughed and said “woah, that’s too much”.
Academic theology is written in a particular way. It can be daunting, to see the table of contents and then how tiny the print is on the pages of a very thick book. He chose one that I think is more accessible, Justo Gonzalez’ The Story of Christianity. He could get it on his e-reader, so that he could read while on business trips.
Somewhere Between Academic Theology and Fluff
Solid theological writing is often aimed at graduate students or for an academic audience. It can be too much for the average person to try to wade through a complicated academic argument when they are trying to work through their particular questions.
On the other hand, there’s a lot of theological fluff out there. A list of “easy” steps or a watered down but warm fuzzies kind of book. What my friend and I wanted was something in between – something that would inform our dinner table conversation and deepen our faith.
This is the beauty of dinner table discipleship – I could share what I’ve read with my friend and our conversation could inform both our journeys. His questions challenge me, and his experience broadens my understanding of the faith. Our conversations help him to consider his questions deeply and carefully.
I have a deep appreciation for complex academic theology, and I have a deep appreciation for the people I meet who don’t want to ever read complex academic theology. I live in the “somewhere between” world, in what has been described as the gap between church and academy. I firmly believe that we need each other. Just as Jonathan and I build up our discipleship over dinner table conversations, so too do church and academy need each other and can build each other up through conversation. The way I do that is to weave them together – to use bite sized pieces of theology in conversation, engaging questions with relevant passages from theologians and researchers.
I probably shouldn’t have suggested so many books to my friend. The thing that fed our souls that evening was our conversation. Gathered around a table, sharing life, questions, joys and concerns, all a gift of the Spirit. One of my goals through this blog is to view it as a conversation around the table, sharing our questions and bite sized pieces of theology, building each other up along the journey of faith.