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Why Fragments?

There are several reasons why I prefer to set out my theological reflections in fragments, rather than attempting to do proper Systematic Theology.
In no particular order, as is fitting for a rationale of fragmentation….

* It will get me over my life-long writer’s block. Whenever I had to write an essay on any important topic as a student, the hardest part was choosing a starting point. Once we had word processors to make revisions easier, the pressure lifted a little, but not entirely. If the subject is truly important to others as well as to myself, then I can be paralyzed by my inner pressure to cover the topic in a comprehensive way, set it out in a proper order, and make sure I have something worth saying. Better to say nothing, perhaps? Those who know my public face in the Church will realize that I have no such inhibitions when it comes to expressing my opinions in spoken words, which are mercifully heard today and forgotten tomorrow…

* Systematic Theology is the most important of all topics, and dominated by famous writers who have spent a lifetime setting out their thoughts precisely, in perfect order, and at great length. This is intimidating for all who have been inspired by their output, and has the effect of silencing the voices of most of those who seek to follow in their path. It is much easier to quote Barth than to learn to think like him.

* The commonly agreed starting topics for Systematic Theology tend to provide a straitjacket that inhibits and disqualifies alternative ways of thinking about the matter. Now, as always, the whole point of the exercise is to attempt a fresh grasp on the subject matter. Starting points tend to become axiomatic. It doesn’t help that Barth called his great rambling collection of theological reflections “Church Dogmatics”, suggesting there might be only one way of thinking in the one and only Church. That was not his intention! “If you see the Buddha along the road, kill him” (did I remember that rightly?) Anyway, if you hear Barth talking too loudly in your ear, shut him down, for the love of Barth.

* I have a wonderful precedent: Pascal’s “Pensees”, published after his much too early death. I love it! Fragments of theological thinking, hovering around the topics that mattered most to him in his own context, written down as they came to him and assembled into some sort of order by others after his death. He intended them to be notes for a book he would write someday, not yet offered for publication with all the responsibility towards his readers that might entail. My offerings here may be excused under a similar rubric, inasmuch as no one has to read them if they don’t want to, they are offered free of charge, and there are so many gabbling voices out there on the internet now that no bishop can possibly expect something too weighty.

* Old fellas like me are expected to ramble, anyway. It’s what we feel compelled to do as we assemble a lifetime’s thoughts in preparation for our ultimate examination.

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