Excerpt from This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley
Loved his thoughts on systematic theology:
I love studying theology, but I've noticed that theology has little tolerance for loose ends. As the study of God, it mostly uses human tools like logic and interpretation and systems to define Him and how He works in our lives. Countless brilliant women and men have written penetrating works that help us think more clearly about God. They give us a rich theological heritage, and I encourage you to read them. But be careful. You can study God expertly in His parts and miss Him entirely in His Being. Sometimes I think today's evangelicals have dissected God, put Him in jars, labeled all His pats, and then breathed a sigh of relief. "Whew. Job done, they gasp. Now we have no more confusion about God. Now we have a God we can market. At least now we can be excruciatingly confident that 'our team' is right"
As right as body parts in formaldehyde.
I've found that theology, especially the systematic kind, becomes more helpful when you think of it as grammar. Grammar helps us read and write, but it can't on its own give us one memorable sentence. That's because grammar is a tool, not an end in itself. Meaningful communication is the end. Communication like, say, poetry. Yes, your grammar helps you to understand and experience a poem. But just when you're getting comfortable, a good poet will break a language rule, turn an image inside out. give you the slip, send you falling.
And there's nothing you can say in response but, "Hmm, good poem.I felt those words."
To help us encounter truths that would die if put into jars, Jesus showed us His kingdom in a gallery of poems, or word pictures. Each time He showed us another facet of what He wanted to teach. What He did not do was give us just one picture of His kingdom, much less a short dictionary definition. Of course, He could have. He could have dissected it for us - defined and dead - for all to inspect.
Instead, He gave us a multifaceted picture that is full of shape and contour and texture and tension and beauty and mess. It is both three-dimensional and experiential. To be known, this picture must be desired, received, and lived over and over again. In the genius of Jesus we find ourselves grasping aspects of the kingdom through a "living" definition that is growing and changing all the time. Not neat (that's dogma), not reduced (that's formula), not disassembled (that's dead).