Friday, 7 August 2009

Augie March and the problem with systems

So I’ve joined a cool book club that meets in the Kings Cross area of Sydney. This month, our book was Saul Bellow’s playful rambling picaresque romp, The Adventures of Augie March (1953). One of my favourite characters is Einhorn, a guy who (at least early in the story) likes to cook up elaborate plans and schemes. The narrator, Augie, describes him like this:

“He was absolutely outspoken about vital things, and he’d open his mind to me, especially when we were together in his study busy with one of his projects that got more fanciful and muddled the more notions he had about being systematic, so that in the end there’d be a super-monstrous apparatus you couldn’t set in motion either by push or crank” (pp. 74-75).
Could you say the same thing about some theological systems? Is it possible for a theology to become so perfect, so elaborately systematic, that you simply can’t do anything with it?

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