June 5, 2020

Dung Beetle Theology

From Frederick Buechner:

Theology is the study of God and his ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study man and his ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes God feels likewise.

Comments

  1. Love this

  2. Me, too. When some modern biologist was asked what his years of study had taught him about God, he thought for a moment and then offered, “He must really like beetles.”

    We can see God in even the least of creatures.

  3. I think the only difference might be that the Dung Beetles may realize that they are better off as they are (than to want to be like us, or be with us).

  4. If dung beetles justified killing each other based upon their “humanology”, I would hope we would be irritated.

  5. I love Beuchner. Keep the quotes coming.

  6. A stupid statement. A classic self-effacement posing as a substitute for facts and sound theology. This is the kind of statement teenagers hear and take seriously as if it enlightens.

    There is a point to make about human weaknesses but elevating dung beetles as our superiors is on its best day tongue-in-cheek but some of you lap this self-hating philosophy up like ….well I will leave that description alone. We are created unique to all creations in the image of God to rule over the living things under us. No doubt in trying to be clever Buechner forgot this little tid-bit of Divine truth.

    • The passage is not saying that dung beetles are our superiors. In fact, it would make no sense if it were. It’s saying that dung beetles would have a hard time understanding and appreciating human beings because we are so much above them. In the same way people can’t fully understand God and his ways. Dung beetles — vast intervening altitude — people — infinite altitude — God. Where is self-hating philosophy implied in this? If I were a pantheist I’d be offended by Buechner’s assumption that human beings are so vastly superior to dung beetles, but the most fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the chain of being would be fine with what he says.

      • Exactly, Damaris. The gap between us and an insect is great indeed. But we both stand on one side of the creator/creation divide, which Kierkegaard rightly called the “infinite qualitative distinction”.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      >This is the kind of statement teenagers hear and take seriously as if it enlightens.

      You’ll get some sympathy from me on that point. But there is wisdom that comes with age, study, and experience. There is also some wisdom that can be lost via that same composite. The teenager might have a valid point in considering this statement profound. And the wise old wizard may have a point in dismissing it.

      > We are created unique to all creations in the image of God to

      Really? scripture says that, where? That we are the *only* creatures created in God’s image; it says we are in this image, but does it make that statement exclusive?

      > rule over the living things under us.

      mmmm. Even if t says “rule over the living things” we certainly aren’t very benevolent rulers. If I was a polar bear i’d vote us out of office.

      > No doubt in trying to be clever Buechner forgot this little tid-bit of Divine truth.

      No, i just don’t (a) believe in the truth that you propose as scruptural nor (b) do I think it really relates to his point – which is to pursue knowledge with humility (and possibly some healthy trepidation).

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Isn’t the dung beetle the “Scarab” of old Egyptian art?

  8. I read and concluded in haste. Lesson learned. Thank you.

    But, I do find the idea that God is “touched” that we would study him, still a rather patronizing illustration. God intends we study him and conclude about him based on his revelation to us.

    • From the little I know of him, D.A. Carson would agree with you; Phillip Yancey might not.

    • Alex, if by “revelation” you mean general revelation as well as written revelation (bible) I’m with you.

      For example, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Although that’s now in the bible (Psalm 19) it was true even before the Psalm was written and is true for those who have no access to a bible. Everything that God has made should cause us to look toward him in awe. In that sense, dung beetles reveal the glory of God.

  9. >God intends we study him and conclude about him based on his revelation to us.

    Yeah, we don’t know that either. Sometimes I wish I knew his intentions. Maybe Job did too. Most of the time I’m glad I don’t though. What I do know is that he was merciful enough to reveal a little bit about himself. And that revelation has utterly amazed me yet completely wrecked me.

    • But just by admitting you know this implies you can know more never mind both the general and written revelation that calls us to be informed.

      • I agree brother. Though I was speaking more in the context of the Buechner quote. Sometimes, in our ponderings of God we can become so sure of what we know. In this context, I hope God is more amused than annoyed.