Theology is an art. We are the canvas that God paints on. His brush is His Word.
That is a simple statement, but it says a lot. Of all the studies humans can embark on theology presents a unique challenge. It is not merely because the topic is so big, though it is. It is not merely because God is Holy and we, left to our own efforts, are anything but holy. It is not merely because God is transcendent, for God is also immanent. The challenge is in the object of our study, for God is not an object that we can study. The only thing we can know about God is what He reveals to us.
I recall encountering that simple truth in a theology class with Dr. David Guretzki back at Briercrest Seminary. It was one of those pivotal moments in my own understanding of what it means to be a theologian. It is a simple truth that goes against our scientific methods and stands at odds with our postmodern influenced individualistic thinking.
In science we strive to discover what other have yet to find. When we discover something new we might even have the object or theory named after us. We take the canvas and document what we have found.In science we in effect seek our own glory. “Look at what we have discovered.” We are the artist and our understanding is the brush.
Postmodern influenced individualistic thinking on the other hand would seek to create its own truths. Instead of discovering what is out there, we create a reality that encompasses what we know and desire. We become the god of our reality. We are the artist who holds the brush.
Theology, however, takes a different course. We do not seek to discover something new about God. Instead we seek to understand what God has revealed of Himself to us. We are His creation. We are His reality. We are the creature. We are the object. There is nothing new we can bring to the table. At best we shuffle bits of knowledge and insight into a coherent understanding, an understanding that is at best incomplete.
More importantly, when we endeavour to study God, it is we who are the canvas that God paints on. It is His Word that paints on the canvas and changes us. We bring a thread bare stained canvas and God creates a master work.
To study theology is to be changed. If the work of theology does not result in us being changed, we have not studied God. We have merely created a god of our liking. To endeavour to study God is to be transformed by God. God is the artist.