Identifying Theology and Pinning Roland Boer
One can’t do a good job of opposing “theology” in the field of religious studies without identifying what “it” is and what about “it” makes it unfit for an academic discipline.
The problem, of course, is that different people use the word differently. So the opposition to “theology” might apply to some types but not others.
What is theology, then? I know people who use the term in these ways:
- I think people most generally use the term to pick out discourses that advance claims about gods in a systematic or quasi-systematic way—I think this most closely matches the colloquial use
- K.L. Noll in his recent Chronicle article said it is just apologetics—this seems dumb because it doesn’t at all fit the colloquial use of the term
- I tend to use it to describe discourses about supernatural entities, discourses that mystify, or discourses that naturalize or reproduce the authority of religious traditions
- the “postmodern” theologians I know (i.e., the ones who pal around with Zizek and Jack Caputo) call themselves theologians when they talk about “God,” although they use the term in a rarefied way (because they’re atheists)—in sum, what they write is existential or political philosophy utilizing the language of religious traditions while twisting that language to new uses
So, does anyone know where Roland Boer lies here? That is, how does he use the term “theology” and what does he mean when he says he’s a “theologian”?
I get the feeling that my (and others’?) posts on theology have rubbed him the wrong way, for which I’m sorry, because Roland is the type of scholar I want to achieve solidarity with.
But there’s a part of my that wants to pin him to the mat and ask, “What do you mean you’re a theologian?!”
How homoerotic is that? I bet he’d approve.