Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal/Theological Notebook: Dave Nutting

Saved by the bell! After sitting at my computer virtually uninterrupted through the entire day, sorting through files that needed to be recovered and files that did not, I was finally summoned away from my computer by an instant message from my undergraduate roommate demanding that I call on the instant. Or rather, repeating the demand that had been made in an email some nine hours earlier, but was put in my Good Intentions list. In fact, I first talked to David's wife, Priscilla, and got some news from her before David got on the line. Not until I got on the phone with her did I feel hungry or thirsty or stiff or anything. I hadn't eaten since noon and now it was nine o'clock! What is it about computers that can suppress bodily sensations like that? Has anyone written a dissertation on the question? Suffice it to say, I immediately whipped up a fine Cream of Broccoli for dinner.

And then we just talked for the last four hours, in the mode that we too often talk: of guys who had known each other while in a passing phase of being evangelicals, and now are a Calvinist Presbyterian Pastor and a Roman Catholic systematic theologian trying to figure out how the other could get to such an incomprehensible point. The difficulty with these theological ends is that out of these accumulated experiences each of us has now gotten to a point where you don't have to articulate very basic points. And the very basic points, the Creed, are the same. But the "mode," I guess is the best word I can come up with--the articulation of how Christianity works--comes out in such different language, with different emphases. The words are the same, it's just a different dialect, an odd grammar, if you will. It's like two people in a museum both recognizing that this photograph is clearly the most important one in the gallery. And the one looks at it and says, "I love Liechtenstein in the summer," and the other looks at the work, and then at his friend, only to say, "That's Katharine Hepburn." Catholicism has so many different theologies active within it that I don't take it as terribly important to work toward a single articulation on a lot of points of the reading of scripture. Presbyterianism, as a much more biblicist theology, has very different expectations of the end of the process of biblical interpretation. So our professional conversations can be very odd experiences for me, in that not only are our schools of thought very different in the field, we don't even have the same take on the importance of our differences.

To the non-Christian outsider, such differences might seem particularly incomprehensible, or taken for evidence that "religion is all just want you want it to be," and not a question of truth. Of course, that would be to misunderstand the dynamic here. To such an outsider, David and I would have pretty much the same response as to what the differences between being a Christian or not being one mean. But like in a science where two specialists might belong to very different schools on how a problem is to be solved--down to the point of even using entirely different systems of mathematics, therapies, engineering solutions, or whatever means you use to work through a problem--our schools of thought, or "denominations," have evolved traditions of thought, language and habit over centuries that we bring to bear in our work. It can just be mind-blowing to have to deal with someone who is using such a different system from your own, but one that still works--is what we call "orthodox" in our field.

So, that conversation took up another four hours until now, and the day and the night, between file-rescuing and old friend-talking, are a complete wash out for continuing to read my constitutional law professor on religious speech in a liberal democracy. Tired. I think I'll fall asleep to Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events and call it a night.
Tags: ecumenical, friends-niu era, movies/film/tv, personal, soup, theological methodology, theological notebook

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