Practical theology

So: this, as I’ve understood it, is how theology works:

Yea we know from on high that God is all good, knowing and willing. From these premises this treatise will explain why various and sundry bad things aren’t that bad at all.

That’s working from axioms to results, like mathematics.

It seems to me there ought to be something done in the other direction, too, to supplement the various axioms revealed to prophets and such; a practical theology, if you so will. Meaning experiments designed to show, by their results, the underlying nature and will of the Deity. (Or deities; I’m an equal-opportunity giver of slim advice.)

How this might work? Well, you’ve asked the right person. Read on.

* * *

First principles

First, we’ll start with the principle that God is watching, and would intervene were we about to do something sufficiently horrible. (May only work for the doings of His (Her?) people; the pagans, atheists and similar unusual folks are, after all, mostly known for their constant uninterrupted ungodliness.) It seems reasonable to assume there’s some kind of a trigger for “sufficient abomination”; if a single case of the act under investigation does not trigger a divine reaction, it can be multiplied in number and duration to yield one. If no reaction, either positive (rainbows, doves, etc.) or negative (brimstone, global flood, Bill Donahue), is forthcoming, the act can be provisionally classified as neutral (i.e. God doesn’t care, except in the general sense required by our empirical set-up.)

Thus, the first test: Mass gay orgies in a church; number of participants increased until the local availability is exhausted, or rainbows/brimstone appear.

* * *

Second principles

Second, the rather crude “god-baiting” technique above can be improved by methods of comparison: we announce that a coin will be flipped in the most random manner possible, and depending on the outcome one of two acts will be performed. It may be psychologically useful if this announcing is done as loudly and publicly as possible; God of course will hear even the whisper of the most timid of hearts, but the participants will possibly react in prayerful ways that will add poignancy and import, and thus a quantity of reliability, to the results.

The desired result is of course that unless the two acts are of equal desirability to God, he will, all things being of occurrence and actuality only in Him and through Him, cause the alternative more desirable to Him be chosen by the coin toss with a higher probability that in some fashion reflects the “abomination quotient” of the two acts.

After a suitable amount of statistical evidence has been collected, it should be relatively trivial, generally speaking, to use these quotients to assign “holiness values” (if negative, “wickedness value” might be a better term) to various acts; the matter of units is beyond these quick notes, but will probably be something of an inspired random choice, which will then cascade to determine the numerical values of the rest of the measured acts.

The author wishes to suggest that these “holiness values” be measured in “holies”, one “holy (h)” being defined as the “holiness value” of helping one slightly lame 77-old Catholic (adjust for the religion under questioning) grandmother of seven across a moderately trafficked midday street in downtown Manhattan. (Should this humble suggestion gain traction, I further suggest the model crossing be marked with a suitably discreet golden plaque to generate public interest in this important project.)

The second test: A nation-wide television broadcast and evening show (possibly sponsored by some suitably progressive religious channel?) along the lines of “What will it be? Disrobed nuns or tripping Pontiffs? When you least expect it, the Candid Coin of God shall decide!” (Note the title is provisional and should not be taken as something generated by extensive marketing research or inquiries into the spin-off possibilities of present shows.)

* * *

Third principles

Tests of nature outlined above may be enough for a rough, provisional outline understanding of the Will of the Divine; but it is clear that for extensive inquiries into this new and exciting aspect of theology a more systematic and nuanced approach is essential.

Thus, it might not be entirely overreaching to issue each trained and certified religious professional (priests, nuns, imams, holy goat-whisperers, etc.; adjust list by religion) a “PT kit” of some kind. To forestall an entirely understandable objection it should be noted that such kits would not be meant for idle speculation or disrespectful “hobbyism”; rather for serious and sober inquisitions into God and His Preference in the various situations that may rise in the varied instances of pastoral care. Issuing such a kit would not only sharpen the professionalism of the religious professional in such instances, but a co-issued form might yield, once the results started coming in en masse, very valuable statistical inferences into precisely those questions that are most often encountered.

This proposed “Practical Theology Light Field Kit” (PTLFK) might contain such ex tempore empirical aids as the Holy Host, sacramental wine, crucifixes of varying sizes, a poster-size fold-out of powerful Biblical passages and a finely calibrated “revelation slit” for the same, some coins and other query devices, a method of temptation (Hustler), and a rusty nail.

In case these methods are sufficient to generate upon application micro-brimstone or very small rainbows, a seeing-glass might be added to the kit. If the incidence of these signs proves difficult to control, mitts and safety glasses may be necessary.

The third test: A large number of experiments with such a kit; say the determination of the preferability of suicide over senility-induced atheism, or death over cake, using the methods described above and their results. It does not seem improbable that over time an experienced professional may be able to divine the Divine’s most preferred choice with 99% precision or more, which given such historical inconveniences as the East-West Schism of 1054 and the Protestant Devil-Split/Reformation, surely are a matter of most immense urgency and import.

* * *

Weaponized applications

Finally, a word of warning.

This research into the will and actions of God can have terrible results if it is used to serve purely selfish ends, and could even degenerate into acts little better than vulgar witchcraft. The following horrible scenario does not sound altogether far-fetched in the light of the outline above; so clearly these matters must be handled with altogether archbishopal care.

Suppose that these investigations lead into an empirical “proof” of the Law of Uniform Goodness, which at the moment is only a shallow conjecture: namely, the supposition that God does not change his mind or his rules, and is not a fickle and erring being. An easy corollary of this, using the Aquinasian Calculus of Holies, is that by being all in all the assumed ways, there are things that God, while still retaining his potential omnipotence, simply will not do; and this lends to the world a uniform character, where experiments like those lined above do not have multiply dependant results, but are fixed in their outcome according to the only partly revealed tabulaturical dictates of God’s Law: in other words, God’s hand might be forced by the very nature of God.

This might lead into gross abuses of God once the “holiness values” and the related Divine triggers of various acts are known with suitable precision. The reader is invited, with the due shuddering and revulsion, to consider a “suicide squad” of believers that enter an enemy city and commit a carefully calculated sequence of evil and abominable acts therein, drawing God’s wrath upon the place, and causing an upwelling and downstriking of fire and brimstone to equal even the worst horrors of Hiroshima!

Such perversions of weaponized God are a vision most dire and horrible, and thus it may be best these few thoughts are never released… oops, didn’t mean to hit Publish.

Doggone it, now the secret’s out and there nothing to do but wait for the Theological Revolution, and the splitting of the thaum.

One Response to “Practical theology”

  1. Arius Says:

    Your literary satire is most provocative.

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