Did the Church Fathers Speak Gobbledygook?
Planning a nice opening ceremony was a BIG challenge for the Reunion organizers! God had allowed everyone to attend in spite of the fact that they were all dead but there had never been an event like this before. There were no clear guidelines to follow. No one even knew whether the attendees had been granted a temporary pass out of heaven or hell or some other place that God had prepared especially for theologians! That was hard to judge because the church fathers spoke so much gobbledygook that it was hard to tell what they were really saying! More than a few Church Fathers were dismayed to see their opponents had somehow avoided the flames of hell. The question on everyone’s mind was “What good are all our excommunications and anathemas if they don’t work and God is merciful anyway?” It was no surprise that planning the Opening Ceremony was a bit complicated.
People Got Killed at Church Councils!
Seating assignments were carefully selected to help avoid awkward encounters but feelings still ran strong and confrontations were inevitable. It was hoped that an orderly atmosphere would prevail but it soon became clear that the All Stars Reunion would look a lot like the chaotic and often violent Church Councils that dotted church history. One Council even came to be called the Gangster Council after one of its prominent Bishops was viciously beaten and subsequently died! At least in Las Vegas there was no real worry that anyone would get killed since everyone was already dead!
When all the participants were seated the lyrics of “Hail Hail the Gang’s All Here!” appeared on the giant screen and the audience sang it heartily.
Hail, hail the gang’s all here, Never mind the weather, here we are together!
Hail, hail the gang’s all here, Sure we’re glad that you’re here too!
Constantine Wasn’t Master of Ceremonies This Time
Emperor Constantine was the natural choice for Master of Ceremonies since he had been the de facto Master of Ceremonies at Nicea. Unfortunately, he was still incarcerated under a 72 hour mental health hold and was unable to attend. To the great delight and frabjous joy of just about everyone, Lewis Carroll the beloved author and Patriarch of Poetry had agreed to be Master of Ceremonies on the first night of the Reunion! None of the Church Fathers had ever heard of him but they recognized him as a brother and true theological All Star as soon as he began to speak.
Lewis Carroll Thought Las Vegas Might Be Heaven
Greetings everyone! It is my singular honor and joy to have this chance to address you tonight! I am just as happy and surprised to be here as you are! I had never even heard of Las Vegas until now. When I first saw all the brilliant lights I thought Las Vegas might be heaven, but now that I’ve been here a little while I know better! Nevertheless, the food is good and we might as well enjoy ourselves! It was a wonderful idea to hold this reunion! Let’s give a big round of applause to the organizers for all the work they have done.
Audience: Polite applause.
Gobbledygook and Trinitarian Theology
My dear brothers and comrades! You are important and famous and smart! I have read your works with great interest and done my best to follow your example. While my subject matter has differed from yours, my approach has been nearly identical as you will soon see. There is no doubt that you have very important things to say! There is also no doubt most people have a hard time figuring out what exactly you mean! Some people even say that you, the Church Fathers, speak fluent gobbledygook! Tonight, I am a happy man, knowing that at long last, I am among friends who understand and appreciate my work in the same way I understand and appreciate yours.
Theologians Are Hard to Understand!
We use words most people do not comprehend to convey ideas that are only vaguely understood… if understood at all. You say things that are very weighty and you see things others do not see! We are those who seek to express what makes a great deal of sense to us but hardly anyone else seems to catch on! Shall we then be embarrassed if our words create amazement and befuddlement? No I say! and no again! Let us fulfill our high destiny! This is our duty and our privilege and our calling. Pile on the words I say! Pile them ever higher and make them ever more inscrutable if the situation demands it! To do anything less is a dereliction of duty! (To Be Continued in Part II)
Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes
PS: Who would have ever thought Lewis Carroll might get invited to a Reunion of ancient theologians? But he did and we’re so glad he showed up! We only hope you enjoyed his initial remarks as much as we did. Part II is coming next and it promises to be a real delight. Be sure to take a look… and while you’re at it why not invite someone else?
So often I have read a statement made by a theologian and have struggled to understand what they were actually saying. I chalked it up to my simple mind. In reality, they were simply causing confusion because of their heady pontificating in an effort to sound important and of the highest authority. This was especially true when I read books about the councils of the 4th century and the statements of those attending the Nicean council.
Your incorporation of “The Jabberwocky” really drove it home.
I agree, John. There will be an upcoming essay on your good point. In brief, though, I’ll note that as questions came up, e.g., “how can Jesus be begotten and unbegotten,” there were attempts to answer. In the first centuries the answers were relatively simple. Although the answers were not complete and positions were taken. As the centuries moved on more refined words were used.
Suffice it to say the brilliant minds of the times had answers with unintended consequences that needed denser and more pointed words. Philosophic logic was very cleverly applied to the new words. This made things even more complex.
There were the brilliant minds at the highest levels of theological/philosophical discourse. But even they were not definitive enough.
A step down were those looking for arguments supporting their power positions. And, there were the bishops hoping to hang on intellectually.
Not necessarily intellectually down from the bishops, but often so, were the parish priests interpreting the lofty arguments for the pews.,
In the pews the highest of theology was reduced to slogans like “Begotten from the unBegotten.” There will be essays on this hierarchy of language.
I’ve noticed that theologians begin their positions with unassailable phrases like, “In the name of peace and goodness,” or “For the glory of our greatest God.” These beguiling beginnings make it difficult to run counter to the arguments. After all, how can one argue with peace and goodness?
Thanks for your comments! Your thoughts bring to mind a few verses from scripture that seem relevant. The first is in Colossians 2:8 “Beware lest men spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit…” and the second is II Timothy 3:4 which speaks of those who are “heady and high minded” John Wycliffe translated this as “swollen with proud thoughts” while other translations render it as “puffed up”. The confusing academic language many theologians speak is a far cry from the simple and understandable words of Jesus Himself. It has always seemed a little puffed up to me that those who claim to understand the internal workings and realities of God’s Being have to admit they don’t even truly understand their own wives.
Bob and Greg, This is very good stuff! It’s certainly entertaining, but more importantly for me it pretty much sums up what I have felt for sometime. I do also appreciate the response from your readers. Very well done, keep up the good work! Scott
Thanks Scott! We appreciate the kind words. Glad you came to visit! Bob