Steven Wilkens is a 2017-2018 CREV Faculty Fellow

Posted: February 28, 2018


 Steven Wilkens (Department of Philosophy),

&Redeeming Humor


The title of my work has a double meaning. First, while Christian theology has placed its focus on a number of topics (Christianity and . . . ) through the centuries, it has been remarkably ambivalent, and often hostile, toward humor.  This is odd for a number of reasons, not least of which are that humor seems to be an exclusively human capacity (imago dei, anyone?), it is a universal element of human interaction, and it is a primary vehicle by which we express love and acceptance. Thus, it only seems right that Christian theology ought to “redeem” it as a topic of theological interest.

Second, common mechanisms that make humor humorous include elements such as benign violation, misdirection, redefinition, surprise, reversal, irony, and incongruity, just to mention a few of the triggers. A close reading of Scripture makes it clear that these elements are commonly found in Scripture’s Story, raising the question of whether a hermeneutics of humor might provide insight into how we understand our faith.  In other words, might humor shed light on the story of redemption we find in theology?