Theology and Mystery

At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 11:25 NIV)
There's something we must keep in mind anytime we engage in theological reflection: we aren't going to "figure it out." I think that there's a perception among many Christian theological thinkers, a false assumption that as we develop our understanding and mature in our conceptual construction of ideas we're "getting closer" to some objective truth, we're pulling back the curtain to find what's actually the case about God. Certainly, there's an element of 'what's actually the case' in any good theological reflection--indeed, there are 'right' and 'wrong' ways of talking about things and there is something beyond our personal experience to which we are referring. But if Jesus was serious when he said "you [God] have hidden these things from the wise and learned," then no accumulation of wisdom or knowledge will reveal them--if anything, they'll get more and more elusive.

Theology is not about resolving paradoxes or solving the mystery of God. Theology presupposes mystery, it assumes that at the end of our reflection is a mystery rather than a clear object. Proverbs says, "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." So the true task of the theological process is not primarily the development of our own understanding. It must, however, be the ardent pursuit of trust in The Lord. What we are after here is not, primarily, the "truth" as anything other than a means to an end. What we're after, in the end, is the healthiest and most faithful way of trusting the mysterious God who created heaven and earth. It is by trust that we will find our way to God, not by eloquence or organized articulation, for the object of our trust is and always will be a mystery. It is the case, therefore, that true faithfulness does not involve certainty. Rather, it is operating on the awareness that we are wrong about a great many things and relying on the hope that is inspired by a God who speaks to those who'll listen. Such faithfulness leads to a boldness of love.