Theology, Koko the Talking Gorilla, and Rock n’ Roll
So my latest seminary class, Systematic Theology II, is teaching me about the differences in opinion between theologians on various topics. The topic that we are discussing in class right now is the idea of the Trinity. So I read St. Gregory of Nazianus’ writings on the subject and Gordon Fee’s book on the topic. As I was reading both of their books, one thing came very clear, both of the views are human explanations of God.
My favorite band of all time, Daniel Amos, has a song called Darn Floor, Big Bite. In it, they talk about Koko the talking gorilla. Know the story? Allow me to elaborate. Koko was a female gorilla born in 1971. She is able to sign over 1,000 words and can understand over 2,000 words of spoken English! Everyone calls her ability to understand language as controversial. One story goes, as Daniel Amos sings, that when someone asked her to explain an earthquake, she signed “Darn floor, big bite.”
Regardless of whether you believe that she was able to adequately explain an earthquake through her sign of “darn floor, big bite,” or whether you believe that she was way off base with her view of just what an earthquake is, one thing a painfully clear….Koko has a definition (right or wrong) of what an earthquake is in her mind. She may not be able to explain it in scientific terms or even in words that don’t even seem to go together, but she knows what it is in her mind.
When it comes to the theology that is precisely what we are doing when trying to explain God. We may not get it right, but we try. Take the example of St. Gregory and Gordon Fee. They have two very different views of the way that the idea of the Trinity came about, but at the end of the day they know that the Trinity is true.
St. Gregory bases his view on the Old Testament and the book of John. He uses a lot of controversial views, though. For example, he claims that the Bible isn’t always factual. I personally find that statement of St. Gregory’s as wrong. The Bible is factual. You can laugh at me all you want, but I do believe in the creation account in the Bible. I believe Noah’s ark was real. I believe the entire Bible in its entirety. If the Bible isn’t true, then it is false. Therefore, the Bible is true.
Gordon Fee, on the other hand, looks at the views of Paul to make the claim that the Trinity exists. Now, Paul was a missionary. He was a church planter who was way too busy living out Matthew 28:19 to worry about analyzing every single word that the Hebrew Bible said. He accepted the accounts of Christ, he accepted his conversion experience on the Damascus road, and he understood the Hebrew Bible.
At the end of the day, our minds are just way too small to understand the intricacies of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I will never be able to explain them completely to anyone who asks me. It is a mystery. We are simply too small to understand the enormity of God.
But there is one thing I do know. God has touched my life in so many ways and at so many times that I know it is more than coincidence. I know God exists because of the work He has done in my life. Some of what I am about to share, I could never explain. The scientists in the reading group would pass off much of it as coincidence, but it isn’t. So here are a few of my stories:
1) My conversion. When I was a kid, I did not know I was allergic to hay. My youth group went to a concert and got bales of hay and threw them down. I dove in head first and woke up a few days later in a hospital. I had a serious asthma attack and almost died. By the time I was released from the hospital, my pastor asked me if I was ready to commit my life to Christ. I did. And from that point forward, I see God in every little thing that happens to me.
2) About 12 years ago I was fired from a very good job. The strange part is that a few weeks before getting fired, I was getting contacted by another company and within a few weeks after getting fired, I had another job lined up. Coincidence? No. God knew what was going to happen. He started laying the groundwork for me to keep a steady stream of income.
3) A few months ago I wanted to go to Peru on a mission trip. I had no clue how I would afford the trip. I kept putting off payment until I could no longer put if off. I had been praying and praying. Then my stock options paid off. The stocks I had all went up and I cashed out. The amount was equal to the trip to Peru, my vacation with my kids, plus a couple hundred dollars more. God came in right on time.
Those are simply a few of my own stories. God came to my rescue. God came alongside me. God carried me when I couldn’t do it myself.
The one thing that is the most inexplicable to me? Just how true Romans 8:37-39 is. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God loves me! He loves me even when I don’t love myself! He loves me even when I do stupid things! He is there to comfort me. He is there to pick me back up. He is there to show me the right way to behave. BUT HE LOVES ME! Thank God I am loved!
Is theology important? I don’t know. I know that it has helped me understand just why I believe what I do, but it is not a necessary piece for being a Christian. You simply need to know that God loves you, Christ died for and rose again, and the Spirit empowered you to share your story with others.
In closing, I want to share some of the lyrics to Darn Floor, Big Bite by Daniel Amos along with the link to the youtube of the song.
Illuminate my muddled heart
Sweep the shadows from my mind
So I might imagine what you are like
And understand the great design
Darn floor – big bite
You are earth, water and light
Darn floor – big bite
Can I ever hope to get it right, can’t get it right
For more of Daniel Amos, check out the following website: