Sherlock Holmes is arguably the most recognizable figure in Western literature. Holmes originally becomes a private detective because he is bored with his life and wants to add some excitement, a sentiment that was clearly carried over to the wildly popular recent BBC TV series version of the character.
The combination of Steven Moffat’s writing and Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting marries the boredom, indifference, and a certain youthful wistfulness for everyday life that drives the character of Sherlock to seek out the extraordinary in every facet of his existence. Sherlock is surrounded by a boring life and there must be something truly mind blowing for him to be bothered to get off the couch and take interest.
The great enemy of Sherlock is not Moriarty but the mundane. Through the presence of Moriarty, Sherlock becomes interesting and lively, fully living out his desired exciting life; but when faced with the battle of an ordinary dull existence Sherlock is completely useless.
This is an interesting worldview that has been taken and forcefully blended with faith for many of my Christian friends around my age. The thinking goes something along the lines of, “I want to love Jesus, but I want to love him in a BIG exciting way. I need to start a movement, or a non-profit, or a movement making non-profit if I want to my Christian life to be really valuable.”
And so, I find many of my Christian friends, who are rightfully concerned with the world and making it a more just place, constantly looking for something “big” to do for their Christian faith that will get them out of a perpetual state of Christian boredom that so often accompanies organized religion.
From the perspective of a pastor and someone who admittedly struggles with this type of thinking, I would like to offer to my fellow Christian Millennials, and really anyone else who struggles with the “my faith isn’t exciting enough” mentality, a suggestion from the late theologian T.F. Torrance.
The Torrance family is to modern theology what the Kennedy family is to modern American politics with T.F. Torrance being the JFK counterpart. Torrance lined up an impressive resume through his years as professor of theology at the University of Edinburgh and a couple years ago I got to take a class that focused on him in which I came across the idea of theological instinct. It was a term I had never heard of and was fairly interested in because its content was fairly unusual from such an esteemed academic.
Elmer Colyer neatly summarizes Torrance’s thoughts on the subject in a footnote from his book The Nature of Doctrine in T.F. Torrance’s Theology:
“Torrance suggests that we should become “so imbued with the mind of Christ that” we come to “think instinctively in a Christian way.” . . . Torrance says that his mother and wife, though never having had any academic training, both were imbued “with unerring theological instinct, evident again and again in…[their] reaction to ideas put forward by preachers and teachers.” . . . “What really counts in the end is whether a person’s mind is radically transformed by Christ and…that he thinks instinctively from the depths of his mental being in a way worthy of God.”” p. 85-86
As I have continued to think about Torrance’s suggestion it has brought a certain amount of heartbreak in its contrast to Christian boredom. So much of my personal life has been lived trying to find the next mountain top experience within my Christian faith; peering down every alley wondering if it is the Damascus road where the voice of God will call down from the heavens with directions and a good name for my 501c3 that God would use for his redemptive purposes.
This places just a slight difference in juxtaposition with Torrance’s suggestion that what I should be looking for is not a global movement complete with trending hashtags—#trendinghastags—but rather the radical transformation of my mind. As a Bible student I have to say that Torrance seems to be far more biblical with an almost uncanny reiteration of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3.
I am left then wondering how to build a robust theological instinct? In a 2002 lecture on the subject Torrance suggests that theological instinct is not something that you can learn formally and when giving suggestions on how to be tuned to Christ he simply offers that Christians should “indwell the Bible.”
But wait a minute . . . that isn’t exciting?! I could practically hear the audience rolling their eyes at an Oxford trained theologian offering an elementary Sunday school class answer to what he called “the most important thing he could teach his students.”
What Torrance understood that I need to be reminded of so frequently is that the Almighty God is always interesting. To think that reading God’s word is too boring to keep our interest, reveals too low of a view of God.
What the world sees as mundane is incredibly exciting when only viewed through the lens of transforming the mind in conformity to Christ. The continual act of allowing the word of God to seize our minds and hearts, captivating our every moment, is full of immense excitement and the more that we begin to think and view the world in this way the more that theological thinking perpetuates itself.
All too frequently we read the Bible and are jealous of individual conversations that God had with the great heroes of the faith, forgetting that Abraham waited twenty-five years between his call in chapter 12 and the birth of Isaac in chapter 21. In that quarter of a century God only spoke to him a handful of times . . . that makes for a lot of mundane, dull, seemingly insignificant days, years, even decades where faith is reaffirmed in ordinary every day life by trusting in God.
You may notice that Torrance is not at all concerned about education level. A highly-esteemed PhD in theology, that had a significant impact upon Christian thinking saw great value, not in degrees and publications, but in a life so steeped in Christ that it instinctually lives God’s desires.
What is found when this thought is teased out and applied is that actions that are regularly viewed as mundane actually have incredible importance.
We don’t have to wait and look for the big moment where we get to deliver our speech and charge into battle with the armies of the Lord following our lead. We have big moments every morning when we decide to get up and read the Bible, allowing it to wash over our minds and guide our days. Even if your personal daily dedication to the word never starts a new Christian movement, there is nothing boring about serving God in the little moments of every day.
So my apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Steven Moffat, but I would guess that if we could find more value and depth in what the world sees as mundane we would be far more capable of infusing Christ into every aspect of our lives.
Luke Suciu is the pastor at Hope Community Church