The whole of Christian doctrine, 140 characters at a time

On gendered pronouns

A couple of people have tweeted about my use of pronouns in the Twystematics. This is an explanation, not a justification.

English lacks a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun. This is not news.

In writing, I take the view – accepted by almost everyone today – that the older practice of using male pronouns as generic is no longer acceptable; I will resort to a singular ‘they’ sometimes (now allowed by the OED…); more often I will switch between male and female pronouns with some deliberate attempt at balance.

In referring to God, in historical writing I tend to re-cast sentences so as to avoid any need for pronouns referring to God (my Baptist Theology contains none, for instance); in doing theology proper, where God is the subject of almost every sentence, I find this impossible. I have here adopted the old practice of capitalised male pronouns; I do not think that this is a good answer to how to refer adequately to God in contemporary English; I do think it might be the least bad answer.

(‘Godself’ and similar are OK, if ugly, until one tries to write extensively on the Trinity; ‘Fatherself; Sonself; Spiritself’? No.)

Others will think other answers are better. Probably in ten years’ time I will – and anyway contemporary idiom will have shifted slightly again. For now, this is my best attempt to negotiate the problems.

How twystematics will work

Each tweet will be numbered to locate it in a broader structure. For example:

1.2 Knowledge of God inevitably leads to a transformed life. Theology may therefore be defined as the doctrine of living well before God.

The first number identifies the doctrinal locus (I’ll publish a list, but in the two examples here, ¬†1 = ‘definition of theology’ & 2 = ‘doctrine of revelation’). Then I will give an orderly account of the doctrine in a series of numbered tweets, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, … Where a claim needs further unpacking, I will go to a third level – as in the example tweet below. At present, I do not plan to nest deeper than this.

The other structural device I intend to use is to sometimes encase an entire tweet in parentheses:

2.2.1 (Creatio ex nihilo means the causal system of creation is closed, so there can be no argument from created reality to truth about God.)

I will use this device to indicate that the tweet is a defence or explanation of the previous tweet.

My present guess is that the project will run to 500 tweets. That said, attempts to write an account of theology famously always grow and expand… I intend to tweet several times a day in the first week, just to get the thing going, and then settle down to one tweet/day. I reserve the right to change this, however.

When I have got a bunch of tweets that together form something of a unit, I will post them all in a blog post here, in the category ‘The Twystematics’. This will offer both an easy point of reference for anyone interested, and an opportunity for discussion, correction, denunciation, or other interaction.

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Why ‘twystematics’?

Why call this ‘twystematics’?

As reflected elsewhere, the form more nearly represents an older version of theological summary, which tended to be called a Summa or Institutes.

But ‘systematics’ is our modern term for the genre.

And ‘Twumma’ would have sounded really silly.