Tuesday, February 19, 2013


My favorite TV sitcom is The Big Bang Theory.  I crack up every time I watch the show, which I do religiously (i.e., once a week).  Also, if there's nothing else on TV, one can usually find a Big Bang rerun somewhere.  Big Bang reruns are even easier to find than MASH, Seinfeld or Cheers.

For those few who are uninformed, the program is about the escapades of four brilliant young scientists who are seemingly clueless about "real life."  (Think:  The Three Stooges plus one, with Ph. D's.)  Across the hall from two of them lives their foil, Penny, a beautiful blond who is as clueless about their interests as they are about hers.  Throw in a growing cast of fellow geeks and nerds of both sexes.
[Disclaimer:  I am not recommending this show to anyone who might take offense at the constant sexual and scatological references.]

I do have to ask myself, however, why I enjoy this show so much.  I've come up with a couple of possible answers to this question.

One possible reason is that I, along with many other fans take a sort of sadistic delight in seeing brilliant people do and say stupid things.  I suppose that many, maybe most of us have this deep underlying suspicion of the "experts" -- those who are regarded as so much more intelligent and learned than we are.  We like to think that they're really not, and this program confirms our suspicion:  we're really smarter than they are!
Another possible reason is that this program speaks to my own inner geek.  As a kid I was always the bookish type with little interest in sports (still am).  I can identify with these guys to some extent, except that I wasn't bullied as much as they were as kids.  If you're a geek it helps to be big.  And as they do, I tend to over-think many situations -- why else would I even be writing this post? 

Anyway, a while back, while discussing a group of guys who got together to study, discuss and debate theology, I referred to them as "theologeeks."  I  didn't know where the term came from.  I didn't intend for it to be a derogatory term and I suppose that there are some who would place me in that category.
Though I thought at first that I had coined an original term, I decided to Google "theologeek" and lo, I found 61 results.  One site defined it as:  "Someone who sees theology as an end in itself rather than as a way of growing in treasuring God for ourselves and others."

I didn't like that definition, though I believe it could be descriptive of many in that group.  So I decided to come up with my own and started by looking up the word "geek" in my Webster's (11th Collegiate).  I found three definitions:
      1.  (1914) a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake.
      2.  a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked.
      3.  an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity.
As I have never met anyone of a theological bent who was known to bite the heads off of chickens or snakes, I eliminated definition number 1.  (I'd suppose that those involved in such activities today would be known as musicians.)  And as I do not necessarily dislike those with theological interests, I decided to use definition number 3 (with a little bit of definition number 2 thrown in), as a basis for my definition of a theologeek as:  "A person of an intellectual bent who is an enthusiast or expert in the field of theology."
I have stated elsewhere that I believe that we are all theologians, that everyone has their own concept of God or reality which colors all of their thinking.  A theologeek then would simply be one who went beyond the norm, perhaps even a professional in their field.
Those of us who laugh at the social blunders of the characters on the Big Bang may forget that geeks perform useful, even necessary functions in society, and that without these brilliant people our lives would be the lesser.
And so it is with our theologeeks.  Our concepts of God and His work, while not requiring the input of experts would without those, be extremely limited and would also be much more easily subject to error.  Perhaps theologeeks are those who have what Paul refers to as "the word of wisdom" and/or "the word of knowledge."  Nearly 2000 years of theologeekdom has brought us where we are today in our theological understanding.
But theologeeks, like those geeks on TV are I believe, in danger of being so wrapped up in their field of expertise, of becoming so involved in the study of theological minutiae that they have no "street smarts."  Perhaps this is not as grave a danger in physics or biology as it is in theology.
We must study theology, not as an end in itself, nor simply as an arena for debate.  Rather, we must study theology so we can better know about God, and study to know about God so that we can better know Him.  Geekery that just studies truths and theories about God without coming to an intimate relationship with Him is just that -- geekery.

And Christianity is all about communication.  We must not only know Him, we must be able to relate these truths to "real life."  And to those non-geeks around us.



Trent said...

I apparently have the same sort of humor. I have never in my life laughed as much at a sit com as big bang theory and I am waiting for the next season. I have seen everyone via netflix. Most nights my sides ache from only 20 minutes of fun.

Bill Ball said...

Trent: Do you go with reason #1 or #2?

Trent said...

Probably a bit of both. :) Also because I understand just enough of whats under discussion and I can pretend its intelligent humor that only "intelligent" people can understand. :)