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Sunday, May 30, 2010

What is theology?

This was the title of a short article in the guardian. Here it is ...

What does theology have to do with reality? Serious question; if you take the Dawkins view – that theology is the study of a non-existent being – all theological talk is about nothing. It isn't even nonsense. Then there is a more generous atheist view, which says that theology is whatever theologians do, so part of it is philosophy, and part, perhaps, is history, or textual criticism. Christians, of course will have a third take, or a fourth. Most, in practice, suppose that atheists are half right: theology is airy-fairy stuff that interests theologians, but normal people just get on with worshipping. Theologians themselves, however, have clear views on what they are doing and how it relates to reality. So how can we best understand this discipline?

A number of people have answered in subsequent guardian articles, including Tina Beattie, a Catholic theologian at Roehampton University who often writes for The Tablet. She wrote that The task of theology is like Penelope weaving her shroud – what we weave during the day we must unravel by night. :) Here's just a bit more of what she wrote ......

[...] John Ruskin described the study of theology as a "dangerous science" for women ..... To do theology well is to empower people to resist religion's co-option by the powers of fanaticism and violence, and that is why the theological education of women is particularly important. John Ruskin was right – it is dangerous for women to study theology, not for women themselves but for a male theological elite which continues to exercise power in the name of a God it seeks to control. Good theology challenges claims to knowledge of God which refuse to engage with the demands of justice and reason, providing reason is understood not in the narrow terms of scientific rationalism but more broadly as the ability to give a coherent account of what one believes and why ....

Here are the other responses at the guardian (thanks to Thinking Anglicans) ....

Tuesday: Terry Sanderson Theology – truly a naked emperor. In the words of Robert A Heinlein, ‘Theology … is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there.’

Thursday: Nick Spencer Theology illuminates reality. Theology would be worth studying even if God did not exist for then it would tell us about our deepest selves.

Friday: Michael McGhee A critical eye on theology. Whatever else they do, the scriptures, like any other literature, reveal the unconscious ambivalences of their writers.

Terry Sanderson’s article above has prompted this from Andrew Brown: Making sense of Rowan Williams. Theology isn’t trying to produce scientific knowledge. We can all agree on that. But what other sorts of knowledge are there?

- Penelope by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope


Anonymous Paul Maurice Martin said...

"Theology would be worth studying even if God did not exist for then it would tell us about our deepest selves."

That one resonates for me. When I read theology that mattered to me, it was more existential than systematic or apologetic.

11:26 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Paul,

Actually, I'd disagree with her on that. If God didn't exist, I'd see no reason for theology, when philosophy could fill the bill better.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Liam said...

Theology is cool.

1:13 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Liam :)

2:01 PM  

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