Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bad Theology

Growing up, I went to Catholic CCD class most every week. When I went to Catholic school (for six years), I had a religion class every day. But it didn't "take". It just didn't seem real. It didn't seem to make a difference in the lives of my parents or the people I knew. I didn't "get" the theology.

Perhaps the biggest influence on my theology growing up was the "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever" (Stephen R. Donaldson).

Now, these are not books on theology. They are fantasy adventure books (not unlike "The Lord of the Rings"). The main character (Thomas Covenant) is an average man in our world (kind of a loner/loser, one of the last cases of leprosy in the modern world). But (once per book), he is transported to a fantasy world where he is a hero. He rallies the forces of good to fight an epic struggle against evil.

In one of the books, Thomas meets the "god" of the fantasy world (while in our world), a weak old man. Thomas asks why the fantasy world is so dominated by one particularly powerful evil guy (Lord Foul). The old man tells him that the fantasy world is a prison for Lord Foul. The old man defeated him earlier, and for him to interfere directly now would release Lord Foul to ravage other worlds (ours included).

For some reason this "stuck" with me. I figured our world was a prison for Satan, and God was unable to do much to help us. Not particularly good theology, kind of a recipe for disaster. But there it is.

Note: I had read "The Lord of the Rings" earlier. It wasn't obvious to me that Tolkien was a Christian. I didn't learn that until recently (when the movies came out). I find Tolkien to be a weaker story teller. His is credited with "world building" (creating a compelling fantasy system of peoples) more than writing compelling characterization and plot.

1 comment:

TheDen said...


Good post. I'm not familiar with the books you're talking about.

I went to Catholic School for 12 years and honestly, learned all about the dogmas and what we are supposed to do (and not do) but like you, it didn't "stick."

Looking back at it, I think the reason why it didn't stick is that I treated my religion classes the same way I treated history, biology, and math. That religion was something to be memorized and regurgitated at will.

I don't know if that was necessarily a weakness in the system as I believe that learning about your faith should start at home and not at school but there definitely were not a lot of witnesses there.

Fortunately, I met a priest who was very intelligent and knew how to get to me. We dialogued and discussed Catholicism for hours. He put all the pieces together and everything I learned over the 12 years started to make sense.

Have a Merry Christmas and may God bless you.