Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Concerning those who trade true wisdom for word-games.

It is no occasion for jest; you are retained as counsel for unhappy mankind - the sick and the needy, and those whose heads are under the poised axe. Whither are you straying? What are you doing? This friend, in whose company you are jesting, is in fear. Help him, and take the noose from about his neck. Men are stretching out imploring hands to you on all sides; lives ruined and in danger of ruin are begging for some assistance; men's hopes, men's resources, depend upon you. They ask that you deliver them from all their restlessness, that you reveal to them, scattered and wandering as they are, the clear light of truth.

- Annaeus Lucius Seneca (Epistle XLVIII)

Here is a challenge for the theologian and the pastor! How easily theology becomes sophistry and the Church becomes a place for arguing semantics. Truth is vital, but words can just as easily hide the truth as reveal it. Seneca uses the example of one "philosopher" who makes jest that 'mouse' is a 'syllable' and 'syllables' do not eat cheese, therefore mice do not eat cheese.

Of course such a game is silly and its emptiness plain to all, but is it not with ease that discussions of theology become nothing more than word games such as this?

Theology as a discipline must always deliver a Christian to the Person of Jesus Christ. Here there are not word games or sophistic arguments; there is only flesh and blood and divinity, real and uncompromising. With words you might, like the Marcionites, explain away the nativity or the death of God in Christ, but you will stand with Thomas before the flesh and blood living God, who offers you His side and hands.

We must engage in theological study, meditation, and discussion always in the presence of the living flesh and blood of Christ and in the presence of the living flesh and blood people who "stretch out imploring hands to you on all sides." With these firmly set before us, engaging in a false theology of word-games will make us blush with shame.


mlorfeld said...

Happy to see this again. By coincidence I was reading Seneca last night in which I found the gem, Non scholae sed vitae discimus.

Father Marc said...

Very appropriate quote.

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