Theology Nerds

The rise of geek culture is a beautiful thing. When you see an elite NBA player like Russell Westbrook dress at times no differently from Steve Urkel, you now know that the nerds are now the cool kids. Perhaps the one thing that is single-handedly responsible for this change in global pop culture is the internet. Geek culture is yet to really catch on in Ghana but it is certainly present in the universities. The information and the connectivity that the internet provides allows people of more niche interests to interact and become more visible. One interesting effect of this explosion in data is over information.

From Wikipedia to WikiLeaks we are in the age of the spoiler. Knowing is fast becoming the default position in many areas. Things are becoming less hidden and less obscure than ever before at an accelerated rate. Fans are able to dissect 2 minute film trailers so thoroughly, that they are in many cases accurately able to predict the film’s plot. For those of us who watch Game of Thrones, fans had already figured out one of the biggest reveals of the show years ahead of time, so anyone who casually browses for information on the show was not surprised by it when it finally appeared. When it comes to entertainment we can spend hours on hours finding out every juicy tidbit about the shows we love. The question must be asked: as Christians the diligence we show when it comes to assimilating pop culture, do we do the same for scripture?

I remember watching an episode of a film debate web series where one contestant described herself as a theology nerd. The idea that you can be a serious hobbyist theologian the same way a person can be a hardcore, Comic Con attending, comic book aficionado really struck me as profound. The internet is the great democratiser of knowledge. Now we have ready access to the fruits of labour of those whose real job is to geekishly pore over biblical and theological stuff. Beyond the community of Christian academics and intellectuals, the internet is a place where ordinary congregants can also participate in theological conversations. This is such a wonderful thing when it comes to church life. One struggle of pastors is getting their members theologically literate. This very important for lay leadership which is crucial to the growth and vitality of any church community. The internet is wonderful tool for many members and lay leaders to be self-taught. It does not take away pastoral responsibility at all but it significantly eases the burden while presenting new challenges. When I decided to take my study of the Bible to the next level, I found an overwhelming amount of resources available.

However, the point of this article is not to appeal to those who are like myself who already have innate geekish tendencies. It is appeal to the believer who loves the Lord. Geek culture is simply about passion and community, things which should be present among the people of God over things of far more infinite worth. Our love for God should compel us to go the extra mile, to have the same levels of interest in the things of God comparable to a diehard fan girl, especially when it comes to the Holy Scriptures.

There is so much more to the Bible than a raw reading of the text. For millennials like myself, many of us grew up reading Harry Potter. I remember in Secondary School dorm mates being surprised to find my friends talking excitedly and in depth about a fictional world. When you are passionate about something you go beyond a casual involvement in it. Now with a contemporary text like Harry Potter it is much easier to relate. Yet, a deeper appraisal of the text yields precious pearls of insight that greatly enhances what you initially read for simple entertainment. The same is truer of an ancient text like the Bible which we cannot easily relate to even though we might be very familiar with it. The great thing about scripture, as I have already said, is that there is a digital avalanche of information on it that can enhance our understanding of God’s word in every respect, and I mean every. You do not need special levels of digital literacy or seminary training to access the wealth of theological learning that is out there. All you need to know is how to Google and be determined to find what you are looking for.

Another thing that we can learn from geek culture which is common with enthusiasts and hobbyists of all stripes is doing something for its own sake and enjoying it. For many believers our reading of scripture does not go beyond the devotional or the liturgical. Of course there is nothing wrong with the discipline of reading scripture regularly since it is spiritually formative and a part of our Christian identity. Yet, there is a modern tendency to read scripture for the application. Whether it is the charismatic personalizing of the logos to receive rhema or the more mainstream character studies, we are quick to make the Bible about “me, myself and I.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to live out scripture daily but that clunky word “application” makes it seem like some kind of manual where you simply need to “apply” the solutions to solve your problems. The Bible is not a spiritual menu of life hacks. For many of us, if we are not leading a group Bible study at church, it will never cross our mind to Google anything scripture related.

We need to cultivate the geek level ability to enjoy the Bible for its own sake. The Bible is a remarkable collection of ancient literature which has had a tremendous influence on the course of human history. If not for anything we should be able to appreciate it for that alone. Even though as believers our personal investment in it should be more than that, it certainly should not be less. People are able to enjoy Lord of the Rings even though it is set in a fantasy world because it contains human stories. Even the hugely successful Pixar movie Wall-E about a mute, trash collecting robot, resonated with audiences because it told a distinctly human story. Likewise, the Bible is the story of God but told through many human stories. It is essentially about a family, something we can all resonate with. It would be inappropriate for us to read the story of a people and immediately assume it is meant address our immediate circumstance.

The power of good literature, of great art in general, is that as it tells the stories of others we learn more about ourselves. By peering into other lives and appreciating them for who they are, good or bad, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the role we play in the world. This is more so for the Bible being God’s holy word. If we are going to learn much from scripture we need to fully recognize that even though the Bible is for us, it was certainly not written to us. We need to accept the Bible and love it for what it is, whether we can find a great application or not, whether it serves our immediate interests or not. As we immerse ourselves in the world of scripture, we will soon find that its powerful currents begin to flow mysteriously through us and change how we think and live to his glory.

For young people like myself with the present technological advancements, we have the opportunity to be the most theologically literate generation ever. Yet when I look at the levels of biblical illiteracy in countries like the United States, it is truly alarming. I am not saying we should all become Bible scholars and theologians. Not everyone can or should do that. However, we need to all have unending enthusiasm for all things Bible. Let’s take advantage of the blessed resources at our disposal and go further and deeper in our knowledge of God’s word.

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