On theology, theological inquiry and the theologian

„Theology is not one field in the way in which, for example, geology is. It does not have a subject matter that can be neatly circumscribed, because it is the nature of religions to pervade the whole of life, individual and corporate, and to offer a comprehensive horizon embracing all reality. In this respect it is more like philosophy (at least in philosophy’s self-understanding) than any other discipline and for theology one of the most important relationships is with philosophy.” (Ford, F. David, Shaping theology, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 2007, p. 31)

And to complement this quote on the nature of theology, read below some excellent excerpts from a recent R. R. Reno article in First Things entitled „On Graduate Study in Theology”

Here is what Reno has to say about choosing an academic environment in which to pursue a graduate program in theology. Right on mark:

„Intellectual rigor, commitment to students, robust theological personality—all these factors matter. But none are more important than a healthy spiritual atmosphere. Here I want to be blunt. You are no more likely to mature as a theologian outside an atmosphere of prayer and piety than as a scientific theorist removed from the laboratory.”

Here is what I take to be a duly broadening of the finality of theological inquiry:

„The ultimate goal of theological inquiry is beyond the natural capacities of reason—an elevation of the mind toward a participation in the divine.”

And while I’m still creatively cutting and pasting quotes from people far wiser and wittier than me, read below a superbly disconcerting description of the ideal theologian according to David Bentley Hart:

„The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild.”

Isn’t it a wee bit ridiculous to aspire to be a theologian after such a description? 🙂 And if it isn’t ridiculous, isn’t it at least scary?


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