When Theologians Order Apple Pie


Not long ago I had a lovely lunch with my wife and my daughter at The Student Prince, the iconic German restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts. After I had completed my würst plate, the waitress asked me if I would like dessert, and I said, as I patted my stomach, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” She said, “Excuse me?” My daughter, who is a student at Yale Divinity School, shot me a look, and said, “She didn’t get your biblical reference, Dad.” “No thank you,” I quickly added, “I’m full.”

I don’t know why I do this. My family is habituated to my obscure asides. My own family of origin was a biblically literate outfit, and biblical references were sprinkled liberally into our conversation. Perhaps I am nostalgic for a day gone by. I started ruminating about Hans Frei’s The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative; his magisterial account of how we got from a society where people place themselves within the Biblical story to a society where most people don’t even know it. That got me thinking about one of Stanley Hauerwas’ probing questions: “What story do you tell yourself after you have told yourself you have no story?” Or something like that.

That got me thinking about what Stanley might have said to the waitress: “What kind of apple pie do I order after I have told myself there is no apple pie?” And, just like that, a new game was born called “When Theologians Order Apple Pie.”

Please feel free to add your own examples. Here are some of mine.

Waitress, “Would you like dessert?
Reinhold Neibuhr: “The apple pie here isn’t as good as people think it is!”

Waitress: “Would you like dessert?”
Karl Barth: “Yes . . . and no.”

Waitress: “Would you like dessert?”
Rudoph Bultmann: The widespread belief that it was an apple that tempted Eve is not in the text, which merely says fruit. It could have been a date or a pomegranate. We don’t know, but the mythic form of the pericope suggests it doesn’t matter. Do you have anything with dates?

Waitress: Would you like dessert?”
Marcus Borg: I know that the apple pie here isn’t really apple pie, but I believe it might be satisfying nonetheless.”

Waitress: “Would you like dessert?”
Walter Brueggemann: “I will eschew the apple pie, which symbolizes the hegemony of the American Empire, from which the church is, or should be, in exile. Just black coffee.”

Waitress: Would you like dessert?
Mary Daly: I choose to call you, not a waitress or a server, for those are demeaning andro-centric and hierarchical signifiers. You are a “pie BRINGer.”

Waitress: “Would you like dessert?”
Paul Tillich: “The apple pie represents our eternal human longing for a pre-lapsarian Eden, despite the obvious fact that apple pie cannot be turned back into apples.

Waitress: “Would you like dessert?”
Jonathan Edwards: “We can see in a piece of apple pie the deep essence of God’s love, a reflection of the love each of the persons of the Trinity have for one another. But, no, just a glass of water for me, thanks.”

Waitress: “Would you like dessert?”
P.T. Forsyth: “Whenever I eat apple pie, I am reminded that God the holy Father acted decisively in the atoning cross of Jesus Christ to overcome the great breach between God and humans caused by our sin. Do you have any shortbread?

OK, kids, you get the idea.  All you theo-bloggers and bored theological grad students who read too much and don’t have anybody that’s interested, here’s your chance to shine.  I want to see Rahner, Van Balthasar, Aquinas, Anselm and the Cappadocians before the week is out.  Best entries get to buy a piece of apple pie for themselves.

11 thoughts on “When Theologians Order Apple Pie

  1. >Waitress: "Would you like dessert?"Huston Smith: "All of the world's meals are equally valid paths to dessert. No matter how we prepare and consume the proteins at the core of our main course, there is transcendant unity in our quest for dessert."

  2. >This is Hannah Bevills, Editor for Christian.com which is a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians, to directly fulfill Christian's needs. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the ENTIRE christian community an outlet to join together as one (no matter denomination) and better spread the good word of Christianity. Christian.com has many great features aside from the obvious like christian TV, prayer request or even find a church/receive advice. We have emailed you because we have interest in collaborating with you and your blog to help us spread the good word. I look forward to an email regarding the matter, Thanks! God Bless|Hannah Bevills|Christian.com|hannah.bevills@gmail.com

  3. >Rick, yes, I took a couple of Huston Smith's comparative religion courses at MIT, including one where he allowed me and some friends to kind of design our own whacky course.I've actually shared a lunch with Huston Smith and can tell you that he had an apple for desert.Here's an alternative Huston Smith:Waitress: "Would you like desert?"Huston Smith: "I'm going to try every single one of your deserts."

  4. >For the reason offered in his explanation of the apple pie as image and shadow of the divine things, I suspect Jonathan Edwards would partake wholeheartedly in this dessert.

  5. >Waitress: Would you like dessert?Theodore Beza: I might take some chocolate fondue, please. But only if you have little biscuits molded in the silhouettes of hypocritical reprobates. I like to skewer them with forks and plunge them into the boiling cauldron.

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