Theology by definition is “the study of the nature of God and religious belief.” It is the human attempt to unwrap and understand the “mind of God.” In the first take on theology it is ambitious but straight forward. The second is a rather tall order, for who are we to presume to know much less understand God’s infinite mind?
I have often said that the study of theology, while a really fascinating intellectual endevour, must bow to the simple faith of the believer. We who deal with (and teach) theology often fall into the dual traps of intellectual vanity (thus our use of “Theo-babble”), and of “missing the woods for the trees.”
1. “Faith is more basic than language or theology.” Sydney Carter
It is in this vein that I have assembled some thoughtful, and positive quotes on the theologians “art,” in the hope that we can reflect on these basics.
2. “One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.” Henri Nouwen
Jesus prayed in John 17 22-23, “ I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Our philosophy of religion, then should not be divisive.
We should also look the the beauty of the message of God. Its spiritual, emotional, and psychological power to uplift:
3. “A theology should be like poetry, which takes us to the end of what words and thoughts can do.” Karen Armstrong
And in that poetry of the soul, our theology must be practical. It must not merely be for our intellectual pleasure, but for the fulfillment of our dual call of the greatest commandments: “Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).”
4. “Theology is not only about understanding the world; it is about mending the world.” Miroslav Volf
Acknowledging that the world is in need of mending is not to be a discouragement to us. Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly, and John 15:11 tells us that Christ’s message is to make our “joy complete.” Therefore,
5. “The theologian who labors without joy is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this field.”
Finally, in all that we do in the name of theology, we must remember humility.
6. “And if we don’t turn on the light of the gospel and remind ourselves of God’s glory and beauty, pride will set up shop in our hearts for an extended stay. Theology will become about us.” Brandon D. Smith