2006-09-24

Theomedy: The jokes on you...


What could be more comedic than a smelly biped with a three pound brain trying to comprehend the purposes of God? Yet, that's what delights our Maker! So much that He became a smelly biped too. This blog explores this ironic fact with amusement, wit, and just a little bit of sarcasm.

Let's face it, it's fun writing blog posts, even when they are somewhat "serious" and "theological". Debates are fun too. And, as long as we really love each other, poking fun at each other is fun. And some of the best jokes that comedians make are about really serious subjects, like politics, for instance. If you don't believe me, turn on nighttime TV.

And let's also face it: We take ourselves waaaay too seriously. We forget we are smelly bipeds and we begin to think we are God. Not even God is as serious as we are most of the time. One of the problems with academia in general and theology in particular- why it is dull, and dusty, and deadly boring- is that we have forgotten to laugh at ourselves. We have forgotten the core irony and absurdity of our existence. We have forgotten to play.

Let's put fun, play, humility, humor, and comedy back into theology. Let's do theomedy. And above all, let us not forget:

There are some things that are too serious not to joke about!

What is theomedy? The shortest definition is simply "the comedy of theology". A more exact definition is:

The-o-med-y [thee-om-ed-ee] noun. 1. An exploration of the comedy found in theology; 2. A method of doing theology that is playful and ironic, and seeks to mediate between the paradoxes found in the Christian worldview, Christian spirituality, and Church life.

And this leads to:

The-o-med-ic [thee-oh-med-ic] adj. Something that pertains to theomedy, or shares in the worldview of theomedy.

And:

The-o-med-i-an [thee-oh-med-ee-an] noun. A thoughtful Christian, or professional theologian, who practices theomedy.

But what is the origin of the concept of theomedy? There are at least five distinct "roots" that describe what theomedy is all about:

The first root of theomedy is the Greek word "Theos", which means "God". The most important aspect of theomedy is that it is rooted and centered in the identity of God, as God reveals Himself in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Theomedy is not an attempt to destroy, edit, or revise, the orthodox faith that is embodied in Christ, preached by the disciples, recorded in the Scriptures, defined by the early Church Councils, and summarized in the Nicene Creed.

Rather, theomedy seeks to uphold, defend, and explain the "faith once for all delivered" to the Church. Theomedy is an unabashedly orthodox Christian view of the world that is Trinitarian, Christ-centered, Spirit-dependent, Scripture-based, and grace-filled. Yet, theomedy does seek to explore this consensual Christian worldview and reveal the paradoxes of the faith, the irony of our relationship with God, and the humor that is found in the Church.

This leads to the second root of theomedy: Comedy. We need to put fun, play, humility, humor, and comedy back into theology. We need to have fun with God! He did not just make us to be little factory workers, or guilt machines, or Gospel salespeople. He made us to enjoy Himself, and to rejoice in His presence. Remember, Jesus endured the cross "for the JOY set before Him" (Hebrews 12:2). Joy and humor is part of Jesus' mission, and we cannot be Jesus people without being people of humor.

I was in a worship service the other day and everyone was stressed. No one was having fun. Everyone was afraid to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Does this bring glory to God? Does he enjoy worship like that? We take ourselves waaaay too seriously. We forget we are smelly bipeds with three pound brains, and we begin to think we are God. Not even God is as serious as we are most of the time.

One of the problems with academia in general and theology in particular- why it is dull, and dusty, and deadly boring- is that we have forgotten to laugh at ourselves. We have forgotten the core irony and absurdity of our existence. We have forgotten to play. And there is a certain humility that is part of being able to laugh at oneself and one's theology. Theology that is too serious is theology that has no humility. And if theology does not have humility, it becomes a source of pride. And pride comes before a fall!

How many theological conflicts and Church splits could have been prevented by having more humility and more humor?

How many theological systems have become idols of paper because of pride and seriousness? How many of these theological idols have blinded people to the reality of God?

If you want to cure some of the theological diseases of the Church, start by taking a huge dose of humility and comedy!

And not only that, but one of the reasons people don't want to become a follower of Christ is because they do not see joyful Christians. They see Christians who cannot take jokes or make jokes. They see Christians who do not appreciate irony and sarcasm. They see Christians who cannot laugh at themselves or their faith (even when it is a joke found in the text of the Bible!). They see Christians who are just dull.

We need to send this stereotype to hell, because that is where it belongs, and where it comes from. We need to recapture our identity as people of joy and laugh at the devil when he tries to make us so serious we cannot relate to God or the world He made!

Comedy was the second root of theomedy. The third root is "media", where we get "median" from, which brings us to a sense of being balanced in the middle. Theomedy is a "middle way", or a "via media" between extremes. Heresy comes about in the Church because of imbalance: because one side of the Truth is held onto tightly and another side is let go of.

For instance, three of the central paradoxes of the Christian faith have to do with the Trinity, the Incarnation, and salvation. In the Trinity, we find that God is one AND three. In the Incarnation we find that Jesus is God AND human. In salvation we find that God is sovereign AND humans are free. The worst heresies about God have come from emphasizing the oneness while denying His threeness. The worst heresies about Christ have come from only emphasizing his humanity or divinity while excluding the other. The worst heresies about salvation have either denied that man is free, or denied that God is sovereign.

Rather, healthy, holistic theology comes from balancing between these extremes, always holding them in tension, and never denying either side of the equation. Some think that healthy theology comes from finding some rock-solid foundation and building on it, so that nothing can ever move us from the Truth. And, if this foundation is Christ alone, then this idea is true (cf. 1Co 3). But, after we have put ourselves on Christ's foundation, what next?

Perhaps a better image of healthy theology is a tightrope, where each side that holds up the tightrope is built into the foundation of Christ. And, instead of standing on a foundation, maybe healthy theology is a lot more like walking on the tightrope, always holding a balance between extremes on the right and on the left. Scripture is like the pole that helps us stay balanced, and the Holy Spirit is the line that we walk on.

This balance, this tension, this "via media" is what theomedy is. We seek to maintain a healthy, holistic spirituality and theology by constantly balancing between extremes in Christ. A friend named Bret has called this "raging moderation". I just call it theomedy.

So, theomedy is Trinity-centered, comedic, and mediating. But there is a fourth root: mediator. The word "mediator" leads us to a mission: to mediate conflicts between others. Theomedy not only seeks to be balanced, but to bring balance to others. The practice of theomedy leads one to mediate between different Christian Traditions, and mediate between the Church and the World.

Let us look at our mediation between Christian traditions. The two main reasons for the fractures of the Church are (a) the grave harm we have done to each other, and (b) the theological and spiritual disagreements we have with each other. I hazard a guess that if we truly forgave and loved each other for the wrongs we have all done, the theological problems we have would be much less insurmountable.

So, theomedy is a practice of forgiving each other, and helping all Christians love one another as our Lord commanded us and modeled for us (cf. John 13:34-35). Theomedians stand in the midst of the fractured Church and call out in this wilderness "Repent! Love one another! Forgive one another for Christ's sake!"

Theomedy also seeks to mediate and find balance between the theological differences of the fractured Church. I also have a hunch that most of our theological problems come from imbalance rather than sheer error. One tradition emphasizes one aspect of Christ's Truth, while the other emphasizes another aspect, and both declare each other to be heretics and apostates. Yet, both have something that the other needs, and if they would just forgive each other they could find balance and holism from each other's theological insights.

Now, there are also many cases of flat-out error as well. Some Christian groups affirm things that are just false or imaginary. And theomedy is not afraid to say so. There are many cases of EITHER / OR, where one side is right and the other wrong. Yet, it is the first impulse of theomedy is to look for a BOTH / AND solution, before looking for an EITHER / OR solution.

Now, theomedy does not just seek to mediate between the churches, but also between the world and the Church. It seeks to find bridges of mercy and grace to extend to a lost and hurting world so that they can be brought into the abundant life of Christ. Theomedy does this by focusing on the fifth and final root of theomedy: The Media.

The Media is a indispensable resource of parables and analogies that can communicate the Gospel to a lost world. Theomedy seeks to deconstruct our sources of media- our music, movies, TV, news, and literature- and find bridges from them that lead to Christ. Christian theology that neglects to use the divine gift of the media refuses to use many incredible tools to communicate Christ's Truth. "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable", we think about these things and find ways to use them to bring others to Christ (cf. Phil 4:8).

So, this is the definition of theomedy: Trinity-centered, comedic, mediating, mediatorial, and media-savvy.

These five aspects of theomedy lead to the effect it has: Medicine. When we do theomedic theology, we are taking medicine to heal us from the schismatic, over-serious, death-dealing way we have done theology for centuries. Theomedy is medicine for the soul. Theomedy is medicine for the Church. Theomedy is medicine for the world.

May we all become theomedians. Amen+
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.