Sherlock Holmes and the Mysteries of Theology

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.

Spoken by Sherlock Holmes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four in his explanation to Watson for why he indulges his cocaine addiction. Does this say anything for my affinity for a good strong cup of coffee? [I ask that in jest — please don’t condemn my coffee.]

I can sympathize with his need for intellectual stimulation (can you imagine a vacation without a good mystery novel?), and have embraced for many years now a plan for broad reading in theology, history, etc., but I can’t help wondering at what point our attempts at solving mysteries for the sake of intellectual stimulation lead us to “solve” theological mysteries that may be best left to a reflective marveling.

Don’t misunderstand. We ought to probe the depths of the mind of God revealed in Scripture. But we ought not to revel in the novelty of freshly “solved” theological mysteries. Solving historical mysteries — great fun. “Solving” theological mysteries — dangerous ground. Good theology, John Piper once said, is so often just a hair’s breadth from heresy. I just don’t think I’m smart enough to blaze those trails. At least not without a good strong cup of coffee.

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