11 September 2008

theology is not for everyone

From St Gregory of Nazianzus:

"Discussion of theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone--it is no such inexpensive or effortless pursuit. Nor, I would add, is it for every occasion, or every audience; neither are all its aspects open to inquiry. It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all people, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul. For one who is not pure to lay hold of pure things is dangerous, just as it is for weak eyes to look at the sun's brightness."

Gregory speaks to a number of challenges for today's church, which I hope to address in separate posts, though I welcome any comments now:
1) Theology is not simple.
2) Theology from everyone, by everyone, is killing the Church. Many think they have a "right" to be heard, to have a place at the table, when shaping the way the Church talks about interpreting God's revelation of himself. Not necessarily so!
3) Theology rightly belongs to the Church.
4) Theology is not solely intellectual, but a spiritual undertaking.


Nick G. said...

Interesting post. I think that first we need to define what theology is. Simply put, theology is the study of God. (People use the term philosophy or worldview today).

Everyone has a theology whether they know it or not. Most people live their entire lives in response to their own personal theology (whether right or wrong).

Most people's theology comes from their upbringing, experiences, tradition, etc.

I think that its good for people to discuss their views as long as its not imposed.

Most people also already have their own ideas about God. Everything they do or believe is in response to their personal views (or theology).

I like Michael Patton's definition of theology, "theology is a set of intellectual and emotional commitments, justified or not, about God and man which dictate ones beliefs and actions. Neither the word itself is irrelevant, nor the concepts which it seeks to articulate. It is the first pursuit of knowledge and wisdom".

People can come to my church with any theology they want to. It really doesn't matter. I want them to come. They will soon discover what my theology is and will either accept it or reject it. Most people will just keep going to churches until they find one that suits their own theology (again, whether right or wrong).

I enjoy conversations about theology. The more people search for answers and talk about their theology gives me the opportunity to share my views and reasons for my faith.

I welcome your responses.

Nick G.

jason miller said...

Hi, Nick--thanks for dropping in!

I believe that Gregory would consider what you are calling "theology" and what he is calling "theology" are not necessarily the same thing. I'm all for the idea that everyone is a theologian--any time we talk about God, we're doing theology, so on that basic level I agree with what you would call talking about theology.

However, I think Gregory is warning us about the deeper things of theology--remember that in his day, the unbaptized were not even allowed to stay in worship for the Eucharist (much less partake), and there was a real guarding of the deep things of the Faith. You didn't talk about the Eucharist with unbelievers, because it was a sacred mystery.

There is a difference between talking about God and doing real, gritty, theology that you are asking the rest of the Church to consider whether or not it falls into line with Scripture and the Church's historical interpretation thereof. It is that second conception of theology that Gregory seems to be asking us to hold very dear.

Your thoughts? I hope I'm not talking around what you said!

Stephen Ley said...

I definitely agree with #1, 2 & 4, not sure about #3. But I'll wait to read future posts. Good topic!