Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Studying Theology

We in the West live in a pluralist society which entails a multiplicity of perspectives. That is a truth bordering on the banal, so long has it been true around these parts. This, after all, is the society imagined and created by Rome, "where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue" as Tacitus once wrote. One of those horrible and shameful things was Christianity, which eventually became the dominant -- though certainly not the only -- perspective from which to view the cosmos.

Indeed, if David Hart is right, theology in the good ol' days was not so much a perspective as it was the perspective that united all other perspectives. Theology didn't throw its two cents into the pot, but was the pot itself. It gathered up all perspectives and disciplines to itself, giving them their true goal, directing them towards the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Hart says it in his own inimitable way:

Christians should undoubtedly celebrate truth wherever they find it; but it is not natural to theology that it should function as one discipline among others, attempting to make its contribution to some larger conversation; as soon as it consents to become a perspective among the human sciences, rather than the contemplation of the final cause and consummation of all paths of knowledge, it has ceased to be theology and has become precisely what its detractors have long suspected it of being: willful opinion, emotion, and cant.

I am often sheepish in my description of theology when anyone asks me what it is exactly that I am studying after I have told them that I study theology. I make it sound like just another university degree, to the point where I might as well be saying that I study Commerce or Engineering. In fact, I am studying an age-old discipline that thinks of itself as the servant of a people who know the Creator of this world, and who have been chosen to live out his purposes in every spehre of life. Perhaps that is a claim I think too daring for me to make. A sign, no doubt, that I am in need of further theological education!

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