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Don't Laugh, but I Think Theology Should Be Funny

An excerpt from "The Work of Theology."
Don't Laugh, but I Think Theology Should Be Funny
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Most of those who practice Christian theology think they are engaged in a serious science. This should not be surprising given the reality that at the center of Christian theology is a crucified Savior. Moreover, theology must well deal with the fundamentals of life—that is, life, death, and all the stuff in between. Stuff like love and the betrayal of love. Sentimentality and superficial nostrums must be avoided. Humor can be one of the ways that sentimentality and superficiality can be defied.

I do think, in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary, that theology can and should be, in some of its modes, funny. Theology done right should make you laugh. It should be done in an entertaining manner. Humor is not the only mode of entertainment the discourse of theology can take, but it is surely the case that we are often attracted to speech and writing that is funny. This calls into question the presumption by some that if you want what you have to say to be entertaining, then what you have to say cannot be serious. I have tried to defy that presumption by attempting to do theology in a manner that “tickles” the imagination.

A number of times, when being introduced before giving a lecture, the story is told of my encounter with a student at Harvard. It seems I was walking across Harvard looking for the library. Not sure I was going in the right direction, I asked an undergraduate if he could tell me where the library is at. He responded by observing, “At Harvard we do not end sentences with a preposition.” I am said to have responded, “Can you tell me where the library is at, [expletive]?”

There is just one problem with that story. It did not happen. However, the story ...

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Christianity Today
Don't Laugh, but I Think Theology Should Be Funny
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October 2015

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