Of Grammar and Good Theology

In my 22-year-long home education career, I utilized “the box” many times to teach grammar.

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Who remembers parts of speech, prepositions, and “the box”? Prepositions are easily taught, when you think of them in relation to “the box”.

in the box

beside the box

above the box

In a nutshell, if a word could theoretically be in relation to a box, that word is almost certainly a preposition. Now, let me shift gears a little bit. (Okay, okay…I just lied. Let me give you a mental “hard right, with pedal-to-the-floor acceleration, Tom Cruise style. Hold on to your butt:)

“Bad theology is like pornography - the imagination of a real relationship without the risk of one. It tends to be transactional and propositional rather than relational and mysterious.” ~Paul Young

Wasn’t that exhilarating?! Or are you scared? No matter, you are along for this ride!

If bad theology is transactional and propositional, I wonder if good theology is relational and prepositional?


/ˌpräpəˈziSH(ə)nl/ (adjective): of or relating to an idea, suggestion or plan.

Propositional is cerebral. To be “propositional” is to think lofty thoughts with no direct experience. It is to be up in your head about God - whether that be your thoughts on His majesty, His holiness, His grace, His Fatherhood. (Hint: I can call Him “Papa” and still be every bit cerebral. For all the relational connotation, it can still be propositional. How do I know this? Because I call Him Papa…yet I am still often insecure.)

Prepositional is my own made-up word. Prepositional involves a box…getting outside the box of limitation, getting beyond the realm of our logic and understanding (not leaving it behind, but going deeper) and embracing the adventure that is an untamed, all-five-senses-engaged experiential relationship to Very God. Here are the top 5 prepositions in English Grammar:

  1. OF: “expressing the relationship between a part and a whole”.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation…” ~2 Cor. 5:18

2. IN: “within an area”

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. ~Colossians 3:3

3. TO: “in the direction of”

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! ~ 1 John 3:1

4. FOR: “what is intended”

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. ~Romans 11:36

5. WITH: “having or possessing or accompanied by”

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ~Word of Jesus, Matthew 28:20

Here’s a few more prepositions that preach:

God above me.

God beneath me. “Underneath are the everlasting arms…”

God before me.

God behind me.

God upon me. “As I began to speak," Peter continued, "the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning!”

Prepositional theology is mind-blowing, and the un-boxing experience is unlike any other. Un-boxing God is the stuff of big, big stories. Prepositions are good theology, when we allow our heart to come into first-hand experience of the person of God.

There is only one preposition that will never, ever apply:

God against me.

*as of this writing, the art featured in this post is still available here