Essay / Theology

Theological Atomic Physicists and their Simplifiers

This is a cartoon that was circulated in grad school. I’ve seen it published a few times but don’t know who to credit it to. The captions sound like some sort of Teutonic Latin: “Theologischer Atomphysiker” means “theological atomic physicist,” while “multiplikatoren” and “simplifikatoren” are “multipliers” and “simplifiers.” Then the punch line is in English:

I may be misremembering, but I think I’ve also seen this with a German punchline.

The cartoon seems to have originated in discussions of the difficulty of the theology of Karl Rahner, an atom-physicist who certainly needed simplifiers. But the general idea of a dubious intellectual food chain could apply to a lot of academics, perhaps especially in theology. And spoken by the Lord, “I don’t understand” may either be a whimsical deflation, or a terrifying judgment, an intellectual paraphrase of “I never knew you.”

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