Found: Snippets of Theological Thought

Peeling Mask

When I read fiction, which I do often, I frequently uncover snippets of “theological thoughts.”  The snippets at first glance appear to be anything but theological, yet in my mind they stimulate theological thought.

In this “Theology Letter” I thought I’d share a few of those snippets from The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.* Not much is known about Tey, except that, in this book at least, she did not put much stock in historians or history. It is this attitude that prompts the “theological thoughts” I found as I read:

PAGE 104, 5:

“Look, Mr. Grant, let’s you and I start at the very beginning of this thing. Without history books, or modern versions, or anyone’s opinion about anything. Truth isn’t in accounts but in accounts books.”

“A neat phrase,” Grant said, complimentary. “Does it mean anything?”

“It means everything. The real history is in forms not meant as history. In Wardrobe accounts, in Privy Purse expenses, in personal letter, in estate books. If someone, say, insists that Lady Whosit never had a child, and you find in the account book the entry: ‘For that son born to my lady on Michaelmas eve: five yards of blue ribbon, fourpence halfpenny’ it is a reasonably fair deduction that my lady has a son on Michaelmas eve

PAGE 131, 2:

“It’s an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with the teller [ed. Of the tale] but with you. They don’t want to have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed.

Very odd isn’t it.”

PAGE 151:

“Yes, of course. It’s the height of absurdity. It belongs to Ruthless Rhymes, not to sober history. That is why historians surprise me. They seem to have no talent for the likeliness of any situation. They see history as a peepshow; with two-dimensional figures against a distant background. “

“Perhaps when you are grubbing about with tattered records you haven’t time to learn about people. I don’t mean about the people in the records, but just about People. Flesh and blood. And how they react to circumstances.”

Thoughts for me raise questions. The answers are not in the thoughts. There are only questions. Yet the questions may indeed be the solution. Solution, not contain the solution.

Permit me a brief segue: In the oldest Graal myths Perceval is chastised for not asking the right question. It is not until he does – “Why do you suffer?” – that the earth is healed. It was the question that brought about the healing, not the Why of it.

In the same vein then these “theological thoughts” raise in my mind a three-part question:

(1) Am I approaching my understanding of scripture correctly and (2) how does my approach effect my theology of scripture as a whole, and (3) how does my approach effect the minutia of my theology?

Is this the right question?  Is there a better question to ask?

There is perhaps another question to be asked, prompted by the second quote, what causes my uneasiness with questioning my understanding of scripture?

As you read these quotes what theological thoughts come to your mind? What questions do they raise for you?


*The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey, Scribner Paperback Fiction Edition, 1995. (Original copyright 1951); ISBN-13: 978-0-684-80386-9.

Image:Peeling Mask, #169;

Frank A Mills