Friday, September 22, 2006

Black Coffee & Theology

In Canada, we live in the land of coffee shops (or more properly donut shops). And yet despite the proliferation of coffee shops – mostly Tim Horton’s, a few Timothy’s, Second Cup’s, Coffee Time’s, and an increasing number of Starbucks – it seems that many don’t really like coffee.
In many cultures coffee was/is fully enjoyed. But here, coffee is only enjoyed after it has been overcome with crème, sugar, cocoa, whipped cream and sprinkles. We prefer sugar to coffee.

Sugar is easy, everyone likes it, and it’s cheap. And so our diets get overloaded with sugar and we wind up loosing the ability to appreciate the nuances of other spices and flavours. Truly tasting and appreciating food and drink seems to have fallen on hard times. This is sad, because God has created so many different things for us to smell, taste and enjoy. And we miss out because we have settled for less.

I think we tend to do the same thing with a lot of aspects of life. We do it with faith. We settle for one or two aspects of God’s character that are more palatable, and give up on the other aspects of God that are harder to understand.
  • Some think only about God’s holiness.
  • Some only focus on the Holy Spirit, while never seeking a fuller understanding of the Trinity.
  • Others live on the constant intake of God’s sovereignty. For them, all they like to think about is that God rules over all.
  • Other’s are so into God’s grace, that they neglect other dimensions of who he is.
You get the idea. When all we focus on are one or two concepts or aspects of God, other less familiar, sometimes more difficult to understand and appreciate truths get ignored.

Here’s the problem. When all you know is sugar, you not only have a hard time appreciating other spices and flavours, but you also lose the ability to truly appreciate sugar. Sugar must be tasted in measure and contrasted with things bitter. The same goes for our faith. When all we know is one limited area of theology, it stunts our appreciation of God and his Gospel in all of its fullness.

So what? So how about stretching ourselves to understand more of what God has revealed? How about reading more broadly (with discernment)? Some need to put down 40 Days of Whatever and begin reading through The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, or some Karl Barth. Some need to study areas of truth long neglected where one cannot rest on the accumulated knowledge of familiar topics to make themselves feel comfortable with God. And guess what - it won't always be easy and pleasant. Learning to appreciate the character and work of God, and the many other truths that he has made known, can take some time. You might find some of these things bitter sweet, and others will have to be worked with in order to develop ataste for them. Some have wrongly concluded that if you have to develop a taste for something (whether it's coffee or truth), it's just not for you. But things are not always so easy, and in fact some things are too complex to be appreciated easily.

Look, if we don’t do this we wind up neglecting “the whole counsel of God,” and develop a weak faith. But if we work at a more biblically holistic faith that can appreciate all aspects of God and his word, even the truths we now embrace become more satisfying. Where to start? I guess it depends on where you are. But I believe most of us need to work at developing a taste for more than what is currently in our theological diet.

Oh, and you’re looking for some good coffee, stop in at Ten Thousand Villages or Morning Glory Café and pick up Fair Trade Coffee – black, no sugar

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