As the year begins, off in the distance is a milestone that, sooner or later, I’m going to have to grapple with more forcefully. That milestone is my Credo.
The Perkins Credo is a rite of passage for students at my particular school of theology, and it is one that is much ballyhooed, lauded, and perhaps even bewailed. Nevertheless, everyone who achieves a Master of Divinity at Perkins is required to write a Credo. What is this Credo you ask? Well, the official definition is “a constructive statement of his or her own understanding of the content of the Christian faith.” This is not, as it has been made explicit to me, “what I believe.” No, this is more of an exercise in discerning what we as Christians believe, which somewhat of a different animal entirely. It’s designed as not an experiment in who can come up with the most creative theology, but rather a test to see if I can explain what the Christian faith is.
As you can imagine, this is no simple task, and in gathering my thoughts together on what I might want to do with it, where I want to go with it, how I want to organize it, and eventually write it, my mind tends to wander quite a bit. That’s why I’ve been writing some more on this here bloggy blog, in order to get more in the habit of writing theologically.
That brings us to this present post. Perhaps you’ve thought to yourself, what makes a theology Nerdcore? Why that word, in particular? Why even approach a nerdy theology at all? Well, I’m going to try and give a better explanation of how I think, and why I think nerdy properties and concepts, genres and ideas are worth theological exploration.
Confession: I stole the phrase from the eponymous hip-hop subgenre. If you are familiar with the artist MC Frontalot, you should be. His rhymes are what the kids call “ill” and pumps up the jams with gusto. What Nerdcore hip-hop did was take nerdy themes and inject them into music in interesting and often astounding results.
But the word “nerdcore” is what intrigued me. Itself a portmanteau of “nerd” and “hardcore,” it is already a mixture of volatile and amorphous concepts. What is a nerd? What is hardcore? Let’s try and tackle hardcore first.
In my mind, it conjures up an image of someone or something boiled down to its very essence, and thus it is an adjective that denotes a purity. When applied to a person, it takes on the connotation of dedication, of being utterly devoted to something.
Nerd, then, has its origins as a derogatory term meant to refer to someone who is socially awkward and yet highly intelligent, with interests that deviate from the mainstream. In more recent times it has been appropriated as a label to take pride in, and by owning up to one’s nerd status, one becomes more true and honest with one’s own personal preferences, strengths and weaknesses. Of course this is a highly generalized summation of things, but it works for our purposes.
So what does it mean to be nerdcore, then? It can be therefore deduced that it refers to a person thoroughly devoted and dedicated to pursuits that deviate from normalcy, someone who values individuality and intelligence, and is drawn to properties that accentuate these attributes.
On to a Theology that is Nerdcore
I’m not going to go on a thorough epistemological discussion on theology; I’ll save that for the credo itself. No, I’ll try to stick to how theology corresponds to the definition of Nerdcore I’ve supplied.
Perhaps it is because I am what I consider Nerdcore that I am in fact drawn to theology. A working definition of theology for our purposes here could be simply summarized as “wisdom about God” or “wisdom of God.” Central to the pursuit of God is to attain wisdom of a thoroughly elusive entity, a God who is Trinity, a God who operates on God’s terms, beyond human ken. One could say that the pursuit of wisdom of this deity is a fool’s errand, an impossible goal.
However, as someone who is accustomed to intellectual pursuits of a fantastical nature such as me, one can’t help but be drawn to the source of all wisdom. I long ago had to come to the realization that, as smart as I am and as much potential I have, my grasp will never come close to the absolute immensity and profundity that is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Theology is a thoroughly humbling pursuit. It’s also a pursuit that is infinitely deep and simultaneously, infinitely rewarding. For me, the more I learn about God, the more I realize how much I don’t know, and how much I can never fully know. And yet, the journey itself makes me love God more, and it propels me forward. I’ll stumble, I’ll fall, I’ll make mistakes, but I can’t help but be dedicated in increasing my knowledge and love of God. In essence, I am utterly devoted. At my core, I am a nerd for God.
That’s why I do Nerdcore Theology. I want to plumb the depths and climb the heights of the divine reality. That reality is so all encompassing, and peeks out of the most profound and unexpected places, I have to search for them all, even in places one might call nerdy, outside of the mainstream, outside of popular culture.
So if you ever ask why I’m a Nerdcore Theologian, it is because my love for God is so deep, I have no other way to express it outside of my utter devotion for the wisdom of God.