No one will ever know everything about
Christianity. People may try to crack
the code with theology, but in the end there are some things humans may never grasp. In Simply Christian: Why Christianity
Makes Sense, N.T. Wright acknowledges that Christianity has an interesting
combination of simplicity and complexity.
He divides his book into three parts; Echoes of a Voice, Staring at
the Sun, and Reflecting the Image. In part two, Staring at the Sun, he focuses on the paradox nature of the
religion. He uses the metaphor of
staring at the sun as a way of putting a physical item to a conceptual
idea. This metaphor can both help and
hurt trying to understand theology.
Throughout the book Wright challenges this idea of theology and the
place it has in Christianity. This essay
is about this metaphor and the final invitation Wright gives to the readers.
Staring at the sun
is a metaphor in the sense of theology of Jesus and Christianity as a
whole. The sun is illuminating and it
brings light to dark places, and exposes things for what it is. Yet, something so beautiful and warming can
also be dangerous. The sun is not meant
to be stared at; and if a person does stare at the sun, especially for too
long, it is very easy to damage one's eyesight.
After a while the person is no longer able to see what it is he was trying
to look at in the first place, which is the light that the sun illuminates. He is unable to see the world around him,
because there is a huge blind spot in his eye.
In the same way, theology is illuminating. It brings light to dark places and exposes
things for what they are. Without
theology there would be darkness and confusion in Christian religion. There would be no growth, much like how sun
is needed for things to grow. Theology
is needed, but just like staring at the sun, it is not recommended to stare
intensely at either.
If theology is the main focus at which Christians place
their gaze, instead of finding the heart of Christianity, they find themselves
blind to what is really offered. Wright states
"Christian sense is like
staring into the sun"; yet he insists that, "it's easier" for one "to look away
from the sun itself" and to just look around the world the sun affects and "see
everything else clearly" (56). This
explains perfectly why theology becomes frustrating and often turns people away
from Christianity. Why would one stare
at something that hurts? Theology and the
sun have the same type of power to both illuminate and blind. Much like when people gaze at the sun too
much; the more we study theology and become technical in our faith, the more we
become blind to the things around us (99).
Theology is not always like
staring into the sun and that is when the metaphor becomes problematic. For example, just glancing at the sun for a moment
can bring pain to a person's eye and damage eye sight. Theology is still vital to understanding the
Christian faith and is important not to get completely forgotten. Looking at theology occasionally is not
always damaging like the sun. Christians
need to know what makes their religion different from others. If humans were to never think about theology;
there would be no growth in Christian belief.
Christianity is based on the belief that Jesus not only saved humanity,
but "is the fulcrum around which world history turns", and if Christians truly
believe that Jesus made such an impact on the world, they should know how and
why that is true (111). Knowing theology
and the Bible is a form of worship. God
placed the Word to be looked at, unlike the sun in which nothing good comes
from looking directly at it. The Torah
is, "one of the places where heaven and earth meet" and doing some theology and
to worship God with the reading of the Torah is to experience the interception
of the two (132).
Throughout the book, Wright comments on the pros and
cons of theology. In the end, Wright does
not invite Christians to consider Christian theology deeper. The main emphasis
on this is "deeper". Wright goes to the
trouble of reminding the reader that theology is not a bad thing in itself, but
if looked at so intensely that it becomes much like staring at the sun,
Christians will fast become discouraged and distracted with what God really
wants. Wright cleverly realizes that "the
Bible is there to enable God's people to be equipped to do God's work in God's
world" and that by no means is it "to give Christians an excuse to sit back
smugly, knowing they possess all God's truth" (184). It is great to read the
Bible and to understand what a Christian believes, but when it becomes trying to "get God in a corner, pin
him down, and force him to submit to human inspection", humans should know they've
got it wrong (57). Christians need to
use the Spirit instead of resting in their own understanding. Wright agrees with theology, yet does not
give an enthusiastic invitation to deep theology to the reader; instead he
invites them to discover what they believe, and live out that belief to show
others and to do God's will.