Sunday, 11 October 2009

Doing theology against ourselves

Halden has two posts on "doing theology against ourselves", with some interesting ensuing discussion. He writes:

The frequent discord between theology and theologians isn’t actually such a bad thing.... If theologians could only write in accordance with their moral achievements, no one could ever write in a way that called herself into question. Theology would merely be an exercise in self-congratulation if we only recommended our own achievements. That our attempts to talk about God often end up condemning us is, you might say, far better than the alternative.
Or to put it another way: the brokenness of the theologian can also be taken up in the service of theology's witness to a reality that utterly transcends it.

5 Comments:

CCW said...

Amen. I find the most difficult aspect of teaching theology does not lie in the conceptual gymnastics, but in my own inability to live up to what I know to be true.

Ben Simpson said...

That is a brilliant turn of phrase. Upon discovering where the theologian falls short of his or her own theology, the true challenge is to continue to run the race with perseverance, with the hope that one day, by grace, one might reach perfection.

On another note, for some theologians to discover that the manner in which they talk about God brings condemnation upon themselves would be a major achievement.

Chris TerryNelson said...

I agree with Halden. It's like saying: "Why doesn't Chris' life line up with Chris' prayers? Just we should pray against ourselves, so too with theology.

While I appreciate this perspective, one still must ask what, if not theology itself, keeps the theologian from living in a consistent manner with their confession. I say "theology itself," because even the theologian can self-aggrandize through feigned self-transcendence. After all, I am the one speaking of the transcendent reality (and I admittedly get props from my peers for doing so). There's more work to be done by the theologian than simply to write against their self - and it may consist in being against the self by putting away theology, and to confess its lack of necessity. Theology can only be done against ourselves if it is in service to God, and the recognition that my service shall not be an idol, or an end in itself.

Chris TerryNelson said...

However, it's not just a matter of ceasing to do a theology that keeps us from living a Gospel life, but doing theology that makes "every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins." (2 Peter 1:5-9). The question for the theologian should be: "Does my theology, indeed my whole life, support my faith and the faith of others around me, or make it unfruitful and ineffective?"

Danny said...

It's true that we need to read theology written by hypocrites. It's false that this hypocrisy "isn't actually such a bad thing."

Unless "such a bad thing" refers to the idea that a hypocritical author's work need or should not be read.

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