There’s something freeing about being on an airplane. Soaring through the sky, admiring the landscape far below, temporarily removed from the concerns of everyday life. It’s nice. I can bury myself in a good book, do some writing, or just daydream out the window. On a plane in the clouds time stops, problems subside, voices dim, and I can relax.
Then the plane lands.
And I’m instantly thrown back into the chaos of email, due dates, and crises. It’s frustrating, but necessary. I’d love to stay in the air cruising lazily through the atmosphere. But as much as I enjoy the time out, eventually you have to land. Clouds are nice, but life happens on the ground.
That’s a great picture for a struggle that many have with theology. People like to stay in the clouds enjoying the view. But sometimes you just have to land the plane.
Landing the Plane in Theology
I use this analogy when explaining to my students why they have to take positions on difficult theological issues: women in ministry, image of God, election, etc. Every year I have at least some students who don’t want to land the plane. They enjoy reading, thinking, and debating about difficult theological issues, but when it comes to taking a clear stand on what they think, they hold back.
And they often make a virtue out of it: theological humility. They’ll argue that these issues are so complex and have been debated for so long that the principled thing to do is just not to have a position. And they’ve probably seen too many landings turn into crashes—maybe landing the wrong way or developing the arrogance that comes from thinking that you’ve got it right. Bad landings lead some to think that maybe it would be best just to stay in the clouds.
But I make them land anyway. Why?