The theology behind Jayber

If you are looking for my latest thoughts on Jayber Crow discussing Chapters 27-29 please go here.  Today I wanted to post an excerpt from a poem by Wendell Berry on his opinion regarding theology, as some of us at Michele’s place have been wondering how to pin down Berry’s beliefs as they seep into Jayber’s story.



Having written some pages in favor of Jesus,

I receive a solemn communication crediting me

with the possession of a “theology” by which

I acquire the strange dignity of being wrong

forever or forever right…


…If I’m a theologian

I am one to the extent that I have learned to duck

when the small, haughty doctrines fly overhead,

dropping their loads of whitewash at random

on the faces of those who look toward Heaven.

Look down, look down, and save your soul

by honester dirt, that receives with a lordly

indifference this off-fall of the air.  Christmas

night and Easter morning are this soil’s only laws.

……….[Doctrinal distinctions on minor issues]

…would be

causes of eternal amusement, could we forget

how we have hated one another, how vilified

and hurt and killed one another, bloodying

the world, by means of such questions, wrongly

asked, never to be rightly answered, but asked and

wrongly answered, hour after hour, day after day,

year after year–such is my belief–in Hell.

–Wendell Berry, 2008

Berry’s thoughts in one sense echo those of Paul:

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. II Tim. 2:22-26 KJV

But it is important to draw the line carefully when discerning what is foundational to the Christian faith from what is open to differing (and controversial) interpretations.  In any case believers are to be recognized by the way they love one another.  Love will include speaking the truth but love will also see that this is done humbly with a view toward drawing others to the truth that will set them free.



2 thoughts on “The theology behind Jayber

  1. He makes it seem as though it is better to not care too much about the truth than to care and make a fuss about it…as though to be an agnostic is the best of all possibilities.

  2. I think our friend Wendell might be in danger of chucking both baby and bath water out the window for fear of dissension in the ranks. Yes to carefully drawn lines and love that reigns over our differences so that we are able to respect and honor the dignity of those with whom we “violently” disagree.
    He does amuse me — the first quote sounds as if having a “theology” might be something he should have been immunized against and failed to do so. His Jayber apple has not fallen far from this tree.

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