Tag Archives: Justin Heinzekehr

The Theological Detective: No Case Left Solved

Justin Heinzekehr

Guest post from…This is Justin Heinzekehr’s  second post for The Femonite. He is currently completing his final paper in his first year of PhD coursework in Process Studies and teaching Bible at the Peace and Justice Academy. He first studied theology at Goshen College. He unwittingly contributes to many more topics and posts than you might think, by virtue of being located in the same apartment as Hannah.

When I first started graduate school to study theology, I thought that my task would be mostly to work on solving some of life’s great mysteries. I thought I would come up with some answers to questions like: What do we mean when we talk about “God”? How does God interact with the world? How can we conceive of God in a nonviolent way? I thought of myself as a detective, digging up clues that others had neglected, finding the answer that would make sense of all these dilemmas.

But now, three years in, I find such answers elusive. What’s more, I don’t even know if I want to find answers. Frankly, we might have more than enough possible answers already.

I’ve certainly unearthed my fair share of clues during my detective work, too many to follow up on actually. I began to suspect that if I looked hard enough, there would be an infinite number of clues, each leading to a whole trail of evidence, and each leading in different (sometimes opposite) directions. I have followed some of these trails a good distance, and even made progress in solving a few tough problems, but I’ve never yet closed a case. There always seems to be more evidence that I just can’t take into account.

So now I believe that theological detectives need to think about their work in a different way altogether. Maybe the problem isn’t the unsolved cases, but the ones that have been prematurely closed. Maybe what we need are some detectives that can help un-solve some of these theological mysteries.

It might seem like this kind of detective work is not in high demand. I don’t recall anyone walking into 221B Baker Street, begging Sherlock to help them become less certain about something they already knew. But if you think about it, we could all use this kind of help, and not just in theological matters. Some of our worst liabilities in any sphere of life are our unexamined assumptions.

I do think, however, that this is particularly true in the case of theology. I’m sure many of us would agree that God is one of the most mysterious and inaccessible concepts for the average human being. Yet with the exception of maybe politics and sports teams, there are few things about which people hold stronger and more rigid opinions. Many people seem extremely eager to put a big red stamp across their theological file: “case closed.”

If I could drum up a decent clientele for a new theological detective agency, I think my slogan would be: “No Case Left Solved.” While my cases would lack the kind of resolution that Hercule Poirot gives you, I think it would be satisfying and honest work. Maybe it’s time to take a look through the magnifying glass and create some mystery out of answers.

Interesting Interactive Note: Yesterday, NPR highlighted a study being done by Harvard that invites people to take a test to examine their “implicit assumptions” about a myriad of topics, ranging from pets to travel to race and gender issues. If you’d be interested in helping with research and in learning more about your own subconscious assumptions, check it out here.

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Filed under Theology

Good Saturday(?):The Waiting Times of Life

Guest Post from…Justin Heinzekehr is a PhD student at Claremont Lincoln University studying theology, philosophy and ethics. He teaches high school Bible at the Peace and Justice Academy in Pasadena, and has created and is reading through perhaps the world’s most comprehensive list of great books. I (Hannah) think it is rather convenient and nice to be married to someone who is also interested in studying theology, and I am grateful that my husband was willing to write a post for The Femonite today.

You can get so confused

that you’ll start in to race

down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace

and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,

headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…

It’s hard to know how to feel on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. No one really talks about this day. I’ve never heard of anyone doing a “Good Saturday” program, or a Saturday sunrise service, or a Saturday brunch. The gospels aren’t much help either. As far as I know, Matthew is the only one to talk about that Saturday, and then the only thing that happens is that the Roman guards seal up Jesus’ tomb (27:62-66). In Luke, it just says, “Then they rested according to the commandment” (23:56). Mark and John are silent about that day. The Saturday before Easter seems to be one of the most ambiguous days in the church calendar, sandwiched right in between a day of mourning and a day of celebration, but without any characteristics of its own.

As I think about this more, though, it seems to me that we all have plenty of  “Good Saturday” experiences in life. These are the times in between pain and healing, the times when we are unable to take any action at all. The wise philosopher, Dr. Seuss, called this the “Waiting Place.” He writes in Oh, the Places You’ll Go, of a “most useless place” where everyone is simply waiting.

Waiting for a train to go                                                                               

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or the waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting. 

As a young(ish) adult, I have felt this ambiguity a lot in my post-college years. Whereas school provides you with a clear path forward, graduation opens up a kind of wilderness before you. You come to the end of the script, but find that the play hasn’t ended yet. It’s not necessarily a painful experience, nor certainly a joyful one, but merely uncertain and sometimes disconcerting.

I think Good Saturday might help us to make sense of this experience. This is a time when we don’t quite know what to feel or do. Like the disciples, we no longer have someone to provide us with a clear vision. On both Friday and Sunday, there was at least clarity about how they should react – either mourning or celebrating. But on Saturday, they just waited.

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Filed under Spirituality