I painted this little scene one evening in a near by park. To state something entirely obvious. This is a painting, it is not the park. At best it is a representation of how I saw the park for a short time while the sun was dipping toward the horizon. Press your nose against the screen has hard as you like, you will not smell the grass. You will not feel the warmth of the day as it gives way to the cool evening breeze off the lake. You will not feel the pesky mosquitoes who think you are supper. You might imagine these things, but you cannot reach out and feel them. As an artist, I hope that I captured something of the experience I had that evening. In the end, it is only an attempt to capture a moment in creation that defies capturing.
So what does this have to do with theology? Everything. Our best scholarly attempts to understand God are in the end, an interpretation of what is revealed to us and how we experience that revelation. Even as the painting is not the park, so our theology is not God. That said, like a good artist, the theologian is driven to capture the uncapturable. Unlike the artist who may do a less than flattering job, the theologian will one day stand before the One who he has dared to presume to study. A canvas may get tossed into the fire with a shrug, a theologian…fortunately God’s grace and mercy are greater than my ignorance.
So can we really claim orthodoxy in theology? Can we ever claim to be right?
The answer is the same as the artist who mixes his paint, dips in the brush and places a stroke thoughtfully, but confidently on the canvas. Years of study, including the works of the great masters, color theory and observation has prepared him for that moment when the paint leaves the brush and illuminates the canvas. When the painting is hung on the wall and people pass by, when they say, “yes, that is a tree, and that is grass, yes it is a park,” then and only then, submitted to the deliberation of time can we say, “yes, it is right.”
So to the theologian, humbly, but confidently making assertions born out of years of study, including the great theologians through out the history of the Church, grappling with contemporary thinking, sets word to paper. When the book is pulled from the library shelf and people read its words, when they say, “yes, that is the God who creates, that is the God who reconciles, this is the God I know,” then and only then, submitted to the deliberation of time can we dare to say, “yes, that is right.”
I must give credit to Dr. David Guretzki of Briercrest Seminary who taught us a simple yet profound truth, our doctrine of the Trinity is not the Trinity, it is merely a doctrine based on how God has revealed Himself. We must not confuse the two.