Behind a theological question…

“Un train peut en cacher un autre.” Expect to see signs like this at railway crossings in France. If your GCSE or O-level French is a bit rusty, it means that one train can be hiding another. Be careful and make sure to look both ways before crossing.

But what does it have to do with theological questions?

Not long ago someone asked me a question about praying for the dead. It’s a theological question, isn’t it? If you are a solid evangelical type, chances are that you will go into theological mode and start running through your mental filing cabinet to bring out the appropriate biblical responses.

Turned out that the man who asked me the question had been doing a bit of reading on the question. He told me about William Barclay’s suggestion that Paul endorsed praying for the dead when he referred to Onesiphorus (or one-sip-Horus, as someone once called him) in 2 Timothy 1.

But it also turned out – and here is the point of the train reference – that the man had lost his brother in a road accident just over a year previously.

It’s one thing to discuss and debate theological questions in the abstract; but it’s very different to discuss them when they have arisen from a context of personal pain. The answers may be the same, but they need to be seasoned with huge amounts of grace and compassion.

Caveat theologus.

(Let the theologian beware).

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