Councils, debates, symposia, and heavyweight journals with impenetrable titles have vital roles to play in bringing down the ‘uncircumcised Philistine’ of harmful doctrine. But while the big guns are blazing, much can be achieved by a humble shepherd boy armed only with a sling and a keen wit.
There is much to be said for the undervalued, quintessentially English form of theological defence: the humble limerick. After all, nothing quite says ‘let’s take this outside’ like getting up in someone’s grill armed with a bit of five-line anapestic poetry!
In the 1930s, C.H. Dodd had caused something of a stir with his work on Romans, radically modifying the traditional conception of ‘the wrath of God’ and proposing that the word hilastērion be translated ‘expiation’ rather than ‘propitiation.’ Debates were sparked, rebuttals scribed, and Evangelical theologians (rightly) came out, all guns blazing. The story goes that whilst Dodd was working on the translation of the New English Bible, he reached Romans 3:25 and was heard to mutter under his breath, “What rubbish!” In retort, an English Cleric jotted down the following lines, which though thoroughly irrelevant and utterly frivolous, deserve to go down in history alongside Nicaea and Chalcedon:
There was a professor called Dodd,
Whose name was exceedingly odd.
He spelled, if you please,
His name with three “D’s,”
While one was sufficient for God.