Monday, February 11, 2019

Does God hate Theology?

Image result for dry bones
'Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

(Ezekiel 37:4-6)

Theology: why bother?

If poor and uneducated folk are the true inheritors of Christianity, as so many Christians tell us, does that mean that academic theologians are just a kind of useless savant? 

Since all agree that we 'can't understand God' just by syllogism, argument, and rhetoric, what place does theology really have in our modern (anti-intellectual) world?

If God is love, should love really be all that difficult to comprehend? Of course, I am not saying that love is God; this would turn anything - from loving cheeseburgers to loving mothers - into God. Yet divine love is surely not all that hard to understand. Does this not render redundant the speculations and theses of academic and dogmatic theology?

We also have the putative contrast between 'head knowledge' and 'practical living' of love in the 'real world'. A professor of theology who does nothing practical about 'loving God and neighbour' could be judged as a complete failure as a Christian, in spite of having 'understood' things. Yet what if a 'practical' Christian runs around inconsistently without bothering to check that what they do is compatible with their faith? Are they not also guilty of presumption?

In the Gospels, Jesus seems to have harsh words for Pharisees and Scribes, who 'knew theology' but were pervaded with hypocrisy and legalism, making it harder for ordinary folk to live the faith of their fathers. Experts who want to be congratulated, and to rule the roost and wield power and soak up prestige and honours, are indeed insufferable. But isn't that what the Church has been doing for millennia? 

Allowing ourselves to be touched, led, and changed, by God is no easy task. Head knowledge can only get us so far to the truth. It does need to be lived, but it's clear that many people want to be congratulated, and to rule the roost and wield power and soak up prestige and honours by being 'successful practically' - no less than the intellectuals might do. Anti-intellectualism seems no less one-sided that the savants do. 

God wants us to get to know Him personally. But how do we achieve this? We can't - on our own strength. We need to be taught by the Spirit and to receive the gift of understanding, wisdom, and charity. There are many 'atheist theologians' these days who know stuff about beliefs and practices, but who neither believe nor practice; for them truth is now a language game revolving around themselves rather than being a portal into their hearts and lives. Theology in itself is good: we can hardly do without official teachings and binding dogmas and remain Christian at all. Truth is not our enemy but our friend. But all this head-candy seems to be very basic, beside the point, and hardly the advanced theology of love which we should all aspire to.

Striving, theorising, as much as activism and presumption, forget that God has to do it all and to will both our knowledge and our practical response. Yet this is not quietism or denigration of human capacity. It is just to say that we need to be open to inspiration and the synthesis of faith, reason, action, and contemplation. 

Our theology (Theo-Logos) is ultimately Jesus himself. A person. Who shows us how to live and how to love. If theology goes no farther than scholasticism, it is arid indeed. It is rather through living day by day in faith, hope, and love, that we transcend the desert of mental prestidigitation. We have to let go of mere 'thinking' and let God in. By suffering and living for others we come closer to the truth of Christ's passion, death and resurrection. That is the experience of theology we need, to be living as opposed to ossified, Christians. 



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