Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When is "mystery" allowed in theology?

How often can we appeal to mystery, in our theology?  For example Jesus warns his followers, and us to; "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matt 25:13)  We know that Jesus will return and we're also given a broad outline of what will happen both before and during his return, however the details are left mysterious.  We know the boundaries but not the interior.

In our systematic theology the paradox of Christology seems to be an area of mystery; Jesus, both man and God.  How does it work, it's a mystery.  We build our Christology only so far and then realize Scripture says no more, and so we have to leave it as a mystery.  But does limited biblical material always imply the remaining space in our theology is a mystery?  Furthermore some Scripture seems more concentrated (as in a cordial concentrate) then other parts and is applicable to a wider variety of topics.  There are also topics (such as the amount of water used in baptism) where the absence of biblical material doesn't imply a mystery, simply a lack of importance.  I want to be judicious in my appeal to the category of mystery but recognise the phenomena when it's appropriate, although I need some tools.

[The ship pictured above is the Amazon, renamed as the infamous and mysterious Mary Celeste.]